[The Film Blog] We need to talk about Nollywood’s obsession with marriage

Nollywood

Hello Nollywood, can you hear me? I’m fairly convinced that I speak for everyone when I say I’m tired of wedding films, and the ones that insidiously pressure Nigerian women into marriage. Currently, Nollywood is suffering from a creative crisis, with films being released skewed towards romantic comedies as though this is what we always want. Recording-breaking rom com The Wedding Party might have spliced some humour into its plot, but we all knew where the film was headed when its promotional poster featured now-married couple Adesua Etomi and Banky W in matrimonial gear.

The second installment Destination Dubai doesn’t deviate from theme. And possible sequels (God forbid, please), will milk the wedding-industrial complex dry. How long before we call this an epidemic? The 2017 romantic comedy film Isoken was Jadesola Osiberu’s directorial debut. In fact, Osiberu puts her hand deftly on the film’s production and screenplay, but there’s nothing subversive or challenging about the film she finally offered us. Isoken Osayande, played by Dakore Akande, is still unmarried at 34 and being at her younger sister’s wedding gives ammunition to a culture that wants her to leave the clutches of singlehood.

The 2018 Desmond Elliot film June, now in cinemas, is the sharpest I have seen on marriage commentary, blunt with a force that will trigger tears if you are a real-life Nigerian woman who, despite being independent and successful, is told by society that these things are inconsequential until you find yourself a man. These kind of films are never innocuous. Fragile psyches are affected, women venturing into marriage without finding themselves first or knowing who they are.

There are over 334 videos about Nigerian weddings on Vimeo, and YouTube has a fair chunk in numbers, including wedding paraphernalia like make-up and gele-tying tutorials. Beyond the virtual space, religion and singlehood makes for an interesting interplay. Most modern churches have youth and singles departments, the bright, yippy demographic on an irreversible pathway to marriage, and then offloaded into the adult church world as, well, married people. There can be delays to marry though, individual ambitions and work commitments or plain financial unreadiness, but in the spiritual sense these are reasons to launch an attack against the enemy.

In June, Chinyere Wilfred as June’s mother prays for her daughter’s deliverance, casting and binding, mentioning “mami wata” and “ogbanje.” By the way, June is 34, played quite excellently by Michelle Dede. But is there something about that age that makes everyone so restive and anxious? Bound, the upcoming film from Lilian Afegbai and directed by Frank Rajah, bristles with self-awareness, perhaps because of its autofictional proximity to Rita Dominic’s life as a still-single Nollywood actress. Because of the public’s obsession with the love lives of their favourite celebrities, Nollywood thought it was a good idea to make Celebrity Marriage, a riotous exercise by Uchenna Mbunabo and stars Tonto Dikeh, Toyin Abraham, Kanayo O. Kanayo and others.

How about the 2014 film Keeping My Man? This one features Rukky Sanda, Ini Edo, Ramsey Nouah, and Monalisa Chinda as the core cast. And I don’t think I should highlight the plot because it seems obvious from the title. Remember Blood Or Wine with Uche Jombo and Jim Iyke? African Bride, End of Soul Mate, Brides War, Single and Married. Should I go on?

If Nollywood is going to keep churning out romantic comedies headed for the altar, are we allowed to demand that they at least be subversive? Or is that too much to ask?

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