Tope Oshin’s ‘We Don’t Live Here Anymore’ Rattles Nollywood

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SUPERSATURDAY

Ferdinand Ekechukwu writes that Tope Oshin has delicately taken on a sensitive issue with her new movie ‘We Don’t Live Here Anymore’

Filmmaker Tope Oshin is known in Nollywood, first as a director, then producer and casting director who studied Theatre Arts, T.V & Film Production at the Lagos State University, and thereafter, Filmmaking Techniques and Methodologies at Colorado Film School, USA.

Exclusively-unique productions has been associated with the multiple award-winning motion picture professional. So it’s always a delight whenever Oshin announces a new project. This time, it is somewhat different as it touches on a delicately-sensitive issue the Nigerian society abhors.

Sponsored by The Initiative For Equal Rights (TIERs), the Tope Oshin directed movie ‘We Don’t Live Here Anymore’ tells the story of the plight of two teenage boys in love with each other, and have to deal with the society. By the official plot of the movie, the story goes that in a fictional Prominence High School, two teenage boys; Tolu Bajulaiye and Chidi Egwuonwu find themselves embroiled in a high stake scandal that could alter the course of their future.

With an impending expulsion, Tolu’s mother, Nike, who is a powerful matriarch, pulls all the strings within her palm and resets the tone into what would become a battle of class, blackballing and a triggering society ready to punish anything besides the status-quo. The Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) themed movie, along with heterosexuality, was recently premiered at the IMAX Cinemas in Lagos, and witnessed by celebrities/Nollywood players.

The movie premiere finally ended months of anticipation since it was first announced in May this year. In the last few years, TIERs has produced quite a number of Nigerian LGBT films. These films – Hell or High Water, Everything in Between, and Veil of Silence – are aimed at bringing about a society that is free from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

TIERS Nigeria has somewhat been working to change the narrative of Gay people in Nigeria. In 2016, when they made Hell or High Water, directed by Asurf Oluseyi, It featured a Gay pastor that was coming to terms with the public being aware of his sexual preference. TIERS followed up with ‘Everything in Between’, a series which had a bigger focus on marginalised women, as well as a gay man that was disowned by his family and takes on an NGO.

Truthfully, there are only a few people who can effectively handle a story like this and Tope Oshin is believed to be one of them. Tope is known for producing Fifty and The Wedding Party 2 and for directing New-Money, Inline and Journey To Self.

She is a prolific and respected director who has served as a juror for the International Emmy Award. Oshin was also listed as one of “9 Nigerian female movie directors you should know” in Nollywood.

However, for all that Nollywood has accomplished in the past few years, the industry still skirts around LGBT stories, perhaps because there’s no market for those stories with Nigerian movie audiences.

Since Oshin announced this new project, We Don’t Live Here Anymore, there seems to be some anticipation for the film; largely due to the fact that the film is set up to be a humanising story about two young gay men rather than portraying them as exaggerated caricatures of popularised stereotypes about the LGBT community.

What’s even more interesting is that this is also a young adult film. While the young adult literary and film industry seems to be an evergreen genre in the United States, it remains virtually untapped in Nigeria. There are very few Nigerian films that tell stories from the young adult point of view, even less with stories such as this at its core.

Written by Noni Salma, the film starred quite a number of Nollywood actors including Osas Ighodaro Ajibade, Funlola Aofiyebi, Katherine Obiang, Funmi Eko, Abiodun Aleja, Francis Sule, Kunle Dada, Temidayo Akinboro, Chris Iheuwa and Omotunde Adebowale.

Speaking at the premiere, the Executive Producer, Olumide Makanjuola said, “We Don’t Live Here Anymore is particularly important, as it discusses a facet of society that is usually ignored. We’re not sure what this will mean for the LGBT society here, but we have a lot of faith in Tope Oshin’s ability, and the nuanced manner with which she typically tackles issues. It is expected that this will spark a lot of horrible reactions from the average Nigerian, however, it is hoped that the movie will sensitise them to issues surrounding sexuality in the sponsors’ estimation.”

Oshin argues that the movie preached the message of humanity, saying “Irrespective of the lines that divide us, we need to tolerate each other and being knowledgeable that whatever we do to another person comes back to us.

“It’s important to touch on human rights. It’s important to heal the society and tame the evils before the society and that’s why we came up with this movie. We looked at how we can talk about one of the evils in the society and also mirror the society and inspire changes,” she said.