It is one thing to read the introducing synopsis of a documentary or film but it is something entirely different when the summarisation is played out before you on screen. That can be said about The Milkmaid and in a way, the synopsis does not do it justice!
The Milkmaid is about the jihadist insurgency in Nigeria.
The film charts the emotional journey of Aisha and her sister Zainab - the main protagonists - and what happened when jihadist militants kidnapped them from their village. The opening scene is a flashback by Aisha and throughout the 2 hour 15-minute film, there are a number of times when she takes us on these journeys. In it she falsely leads a set of her fellow villagers into a trap where jihadists lie in wait…at the crucial moment she wakes in a start. It was a dream or was it? A premonition of what is to come? The story then weaves through and engrossing tale of love, betrayal, hate, conflict and redemption. Naturally, not wishing to give anything away, the meandering story between Dangana, Aisha and her sister, Zainab (who had changed her name to Fathiyya) is interesting how it unfolds from them being kidnapped to actually becoming wives. The issues that come to play with religious extremism, abandonment and jealousy.
The cinematography captures the culture of the people, including the local villagers and jihadists and displays the richness in the clothes and habitats. In an early scene a wedding takes place and the way in which the bride is adorned, the music and dancing is rich and alive. To add the natural allure of the culture is the beauty of north-eastern Nigeria, where The Milkmaid was filmed. Its topography caught in all its beauty of rolling green, sometimes mist-covered hills, in-between the scenes of tall trees and shots of a wide and beautiful river.
Be warned that there is violence. And it portrays what we sometimes see, read or hear on mainstream news or social media. It is stark, raw. It is emotive and moving. It is frightening and makes what others in this world go through on a daily basis – real. Be prepared.
The Milkmaid provides a fascinating, unseen or unheard of perspective by demonstrating how common civilians, in the middle of armed conflict and upheaval, are inhumanly treated. It shows how religious extremism is used to brainwash, control and denigrate those who desire to just have a normal life. It also illustrates, in my opinion, how egotistical men with power as their baseline, use those to oppress, suppress and manipulate others, mainly women.
The Executive Producer, Dr Oluseun Sowemimo. attended the Q&A but unfortunately the Director couldn’t attend. However, he provided a short video introduction for the film which played ahead of the screening. There was a Q&A but unfortunately, due to Covid-19 protocols, the audience was unable to ask questions of Dr Oluseun Sowemimo but it was refreshing to hear him talk about the film and how it was made, even one incident where the film crew needed to be rescued by the police because the props and equipment they carried and where they were going to film; the locals thought they were insurgents.
The Cast: Top Left: Dr Oluseun Sowemimo Middle: Maryam Booth Far Right: Anthonieta Kalunta Second Row Left: Desmond Ovbiagele Second Row Far Right: Gambo Usman Kona
The other thing of note he said was that the production company is seeking to have the film shown far and wide internationally, including having discussions with broadcast corporations such as Netflix and Amazon. The Milkmaid is already an award-winning film and long may that continue, and for it to be even more successful than what it has achieved to date, it will need more and more of us to demand to watch – everywhere.
TheMilkmaid – Nigeria’s first-ever qualifying submission for Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards – had its European premiere on Saturday 10 July 2021 at BFI Southbank as part of theBFI African Odysseys programme, followed by a one-off Q&A with Director Desmond Ovbiagele and Executive Producer Oluseun Sowemimo. Starring Anthonieta Kalunta and Maryam Booth and Gambo Usman Kona, TheMilkmaidhas already garnered critical acclaim, winning five Africa Movie Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Film in an African Language, Best Nigerian Film, Best Supporting Actress and Achievement in Make-Up, with UK and USA release dates to be confirmed.
Review By: Kwame McPherson Resident Contributor of TurningPoint: Your Lifestyle, Your Well-Being Magazine 2020 Bursary Awardee The Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction
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