Walking With Shadows is going to be the most jarring movie Nigerians will see this year.
Or whenever it decides to mount the big screens in this country. Perhaps, it is when it decides to sail on the large streaming waters of Netflix.
Whatever the case, whenever Walking With Shadows finally captures the attention of Nollywood’s vast audience, it will become the most staggering picture they’d see.
Directed by Aoife O’Kelly, Walking With Shadows is a simple story. One that would be familiar to the average Nigerian if they paid a little attention to what happens to the queer community in their country. The LGBTQ community, that is. A community that is closer and more real than they’d like to admit.
In Walking With Shadows, Adrien (Ozzy Agu) is a gay man in a heterosexual marriage with an oblivious wife, Ada (Zainab Balogun). However, when a phone call that reveals Adrien’s true sexuality is received by Ada on a regular night in their lives, everything changes forever.
Albeit a man with a legal source of income who’s worked hard to become who he is in his career, Adrien automatically goes on the run – running away from the only life he knows and has because suddenly, everyone regards him as a criminal of some sort. He is seen as someone who has done something horrific, terrible and incomprehensible.
Every once in a while, he returns to his family, hoping perhaps they would have realized his sexuality has absolutely nothing to do with him as an individual but as the audience would realize in this film, Adrien’s heart constantly gets broken.
Acceptance is as far away from him as possible. And his family will stop at nothing – even setting him up to be mercilessly flogged by an idiotic pastor – until he makes a change they are comfortable with.
Walking With Shadows is unafraid to discuss homosexuality in a country like Nigeria in the present day. In a country that embraces homophobic laws, turns away when gay men and women are viciously attacked and encourages its citizens to treat LGBT people as less of who they are. A country that’s pretentious as portrayed in the scene where Ada finds out many of the women she knows are knowingly married to gay men but stay in the marriage for personal gains.
Walking With Shadows does not only ring true but is a hundred percent timely.
And just like movies of its kind, Walking With Shadows creates a compelling plot through which it drives its point(s) home and tells a story that does not judge, nor preach but manages to evoke human emotions within its audience.
With a screenplay adapted from Jude Dibia’s story with the same name, the film also juxtaposes the role religion plays in ostracising and demonizing homosexuality in the Nigerian society. It does not necessarily cast blame but it also does its best to push and prod its audience in a different thinking direction.
And while it’s easy in its storytelling, it does not compromise on the projection of a future that may emerge if the society continues to fly its hostile gay manifesto. Through Adrien, one sees a man who takes its all in stride – trying to find himself until one day, he snaps. And when he does, he is unapologetic.
He tells it to everyone who cares to listen where he stands, where he will continue to stand and how uncompromising he will continue to be in embracing his true self.
And perhaps that is the best thing about this film – telling a raw and honest truth about a community that will never go away and will not shrink itself to make its willingly ignorant neighbors feel good about themselves.