A New Take On Patriarchy

Terh Agbedeh of the Talent Press Durban 2014 reviews the Nigerian family drama B FOR BOY, written and directed by Chika Anadu.

Chika Anadu's B FOR BOY

There is an unflinching consensus that change is the one constant thing. But it would seem that there are things in the culture of a people that would rather stay the same. Among the Igbo in eastern Nigeria that thing is patriarchy, the need to carry on the family name. Who better to do that than the male child, which every married man that is a man is expected to produce plenty of. This is regardless of the scientific fact that the male chromosome has a predilection for producing females. Of course, what applies is that the man is celebrated when his wife gives birth to a boy but the woman is disdained if it's a female. Particularly if the male child never comes.

B FOR BOY revolves around the theme of patriarchy that is replete in Nigerian literature, particularly in books produced around what can now be safely described as the golden age of Nigerian literature. A couple of Nigerian films collectively called Nollywood have also gone there but the man, oftentimes, gets his way, he either marries another wife who bares him a son or he takes a mistress. But never the adoption way since the son has to be biological. That is not the case in B FOR BOY, written and directed by Chika Anadu. Her compelling telling of this old tale is like pouring old wine in a brand new bottle.

The plot has 38-year-old Amaka (Uche Uwadili), who has been married to Nonso (Nonso Odogwu) for eight years with a daughter. Amaka is pregnant and the pressure is on for her to produce a son. And the person carrying the placard is her mother-in-law (played by Ngozi Awarikwa), who is willing to go to any lengths. Amaka has drawn the line, but when a double tragedy strikes the family she goes to her own lengths to have her way. What she plans and carries through to the end will shock anyone who sees this well-crafted small budget film.

But it is not just this sinister side of Amaka that rattles, it is also how B FOR BOY unravels. There is no doubt that everything the filmmaker puts in the mix is deliberate. Some may argue that there is no way Amaka can deceive Nonso for so long without him finding out. But this film should travel, because it is a very important one.