Directed By Stephanie Okereke
Written by Stephanie Okereke
Featuring: Zubaida Ibrahim Fagge, Stephanie Okereke-Linus, Liz Benson, Olu Jacob, Rekiya Attah and more.
Very few films get released and because of popular demand get re-released. Stephanie Okereke’s Dry is a special film and last week it was re-released in cinemas despite being available on iRoko TV, and impressing the viewers. More surprisingly it was back in the cinemas for just N100. It is clear that profit was not the main aim of this work. It is a social statement. We don’t get many socially conscious films but Dry gives us that, in the most genuine way, with deep dialogue that explores some challenges women go through. 122 minutes is not enough time to deal with all the issues women go through in Nigeria and so Stephanie picks particularly, forced child marriage, forced prostitution and with these main themes, she uses well-crafted dialogue to touch on so many issues that affect the Nigerian woman.
A thirteen-year-old girl is forced into a marriage to an older man by her parents. Her resistance to the marriage is not enough, they take the money and when she moves to her husband’s house, she experiences rape on the very first night, a rape that gets her pregnant. Too young to have a child, the child dies during birth and she suffers from VVF. The disease eventually causes her stigmatisation; the people in her community accuse her of witchcraft, of adultery. All due to the lack of enlightenment of what VVF is.
Forced marriage is the reality of many young girls in our society. When they develop slightly, the society believes that it is right to talk to them about marriage. They think that it is right to give them out in marriage and that is the awful mistake that Halima’s parents make. They give their daughter out, despite her protest. When she cries, her mother tells her “stop crying, you are too young to understand”, she is too young to understand marriage but not too young to be a wife, how convenient and how cultural!
A sixty-year-old man with a desire for a thirteen-year-old is the story we are exposed to. When Halima walks past him, he cannot contain himself. When he tries to rape her, she calls him uncle, severally; he chooses to ignore her plea. He goes ahead anyway because he is sick in the head. When he rapes her and she confuses it for beating, nobody questions him, it is her duty as a wife and so they choose to ask her what she did to overwork him instead.
The monologue at the senate house captures the film, in all truthfulness. Child Abuse of any form is not easy to talk about. Children need protection and there are many more girls, with potentials, strong like Halima but there are forces, sometimes, even family. They don’t want them to get better, to be better. They want them to be part of society’s definition of life. They are not allowed the freedom to be great on their own terms. For Halima, VVF is confused for adultery because her people hold unto an old belief. The wound Halima suffers is one she never heals from, because it was something that was started not to have a finish. Her innocence was sold for culture sake, her family preferred to give her to a husband and not to education. It ruins them; above all, it causes more pain to Halima’s biological mother, played by Stephanie Okereke. It continues a circle that Halima’s mother had once escaped.
I like to think of films as inspiration. Many of them have made me spring to action and for Dry, it is an important film that should make us rethink how we permit a lot in our society. How we never speak out on important issues, on issues such as manipulation, abuse and violence.
Since Ije by Chineze Anyaene, I have not seen a film with such temper, with so much hope and so much promise, to speak to the society. Both films tackle the issue of silence and abuse, it is important to break the ice and because society is defined by anyone, it is important for us to work society to soothe us, to move for us and one of the ways we can do that is by eradicating early marriage and that is the education Stephanie Linus offers us with Dry.
Stephanie Linus is impeccable in Dry as Dr. Zara. It is Dr. Zara’s story and the story of Halima played by Zubaida Fagge and they work so hard to create such believability that breaks the heart. They are incredible. The acting is commendable and it is clear how much work went into it. It is not one of those rush projects made to soothe our taste for activism. It is a film that bears passion but with control.
This film will continue to be relevant for a long time, especially if the government does not enforce strict rules on child marriage. It is time we do away with obsolete culture.
Dry is a beautiful film you should make time to see. It is on iRoko TV and also back in the cinemas for just N100 in select cinemas.