For the first time after Tope Oshin’s 2018 drama, ‘We don’t live here anymore,’ a Nollywood film takes the bold step to open up on salient issues with being gay in Nigeria.
‘Walking with Shadows’ is an adaptation of Jude Dibia’s 2005 fiction novel which tells the story of the married protagonist, Adrian Ebele Njoko and his sexuality.
Adrian Ebele Njoko is outed by one of his colleagues, Tayo, who he investigated for fraud. In revenge, Tayo informs Adrian's family and friends about his sexuality and this in turn shattered his existence with the ones he loves most turning against him.
UK based director, Aoife O’Kelly guides the viewers with captivating scenes as the protagonist, Adrian Ebele Njoko - played by Ozzy Agu - embarks on a journey for self-acceptance.
Though ‘Walking with Shadows’ sits as O’Kelly’s first full feature, her experiences after making two short films - ‘Fish’ in 2015 and ‘Lula’ - were brought to the fore in adapting a brilliant effort.
The role of Adrian Njoko is sensitive yet audacious and Ozzy Agu, who was saddled with the responsibility of interpreting it did well.
For Agu, the young actor has just re-introduced his presence as a darn good actor. Agu’s ability to wear the garment of Adrian Njoko in the journey to self acceptance is laudable to say the least. Agu brings to the centre stage, the reality of being gay in Nigeria. He carefully but professionally interpreted the tough and deep internal struggle an outed gay faces in today’s Nigeria.
This film sees Agu’s character feeling like an outsider amongst the people he has loved all his life. He is bullied by his brothers, ostracized by his father judged by his mum, and is rejected by peers, for trying to be himself.
If Agu’s character is compelling, the role of Ada Njoko, the loving and successful young wife of Adrian - played by Zainab Balogun - sends chill down viewers’ spines.
Zainab’s character is tormented by the revelation of her husband’s sexuality and she’s portrayed fighting her own battle especially when she meets women, who were proud to exploit their spouses for being homosexual.
‘Walking in Shadows’ opens up the idea of being gay, accepting it, fighting to accept the revelation by close ones - most especially family. It also shares need to be empathetic and tolerant towards the experience.
Zainab and Agu complemented each other playing the role of Adrian and Ada Njoko.
Also featuring top Nollywood actors that include Wale Ojo, Funlola Aofiyebi-Raimi, Ayo Ayoola, and Funsho Adeolu, the film scored high in casting.
However, ‘Walking in Shadows’ failed to explain exactly when Adrian discovered his sexuality. While O’Kelly related Adrian’s growing up experience with his acceptance of his sexuality, she failed to clearly define how Adrian discovered he was gay. His first experience - as told by the film - was with French personality, Antwan, who was murdered by Tayo and his goons. This begs for an answer.
Interestingly, the film is supported by Initiative for equal rights, the same platform that co-produced ‘We don’t live here anymore’ and has Olumide Makanjuola as co-producer.