The release of the trailer for short film, “Hell and High Water,” has created a bit of a storm. “Hell and High Water” explores the sensitive topic of homosexuality in the Nigerian context. Sex and sexuality tend to be swept under the rug in Nigeria, and homosexuality is generally considered a taboo. “Hell and High Water” is even more subversive in that it deals with religion. The short film tells the story of a young pastor who is struggling with his sexuality that he keeps a secret from his congregation that adores him.

 

For a short film, “Hell and High Water” deals with a heavy load of themes outside sexuality and religion, it also looks at exorcism, family relations, and blackmail. “Hell and High Water” is written by Habeeb Lawal, the filmmaker who was also behind the Veil of Silence a documentary on gay Nigerians. It is produced by Asurf Oluseyi who this year won the Africa Magic Viewers Chocie Award for Best Short Film. The film also stars award winning Nollywood actors including Enyinna Nwigwe, whose portrayal of a gay character in the past got tongues wagging.

 

 

Homosexual sex, as well as organisations that support LGBT rights, are illegal in Nigeria, with those found guilty facing lengthy jail terms. “Hell and High Water” is a first for the Nigerian movie industry because it tackles the subject of homosexuality from a well-rounded and empathetic perspective. Nollywood has in the past released movies with gay characters that further stigmatises LGBT individuals. The industry has shown gay characters as being either possessed by Satan or mentally ill. Homosexuality is often approached as a problem that the films turn into a moral story where the gay character either becomes “cured” and gets married or dies.

 

“Hell and High Water” has the potential to affect the narrative on homosexuality, but is Nigeria ready for such a film? Share your thoughts in a comment below or on Twitter @rafeeeeta