in

Behind the scenes: Filming a British-Nigerian gay love story

Adaora Nwandu (Photo courtesy of NoStrings)
Adaora Nwandu (Photo courtesy of NoStrings)

Homosexuality remains very much a do-not-discuss subject in Nigeria, even though a recent survey has shown that Nigerians, especially young Nigerians, are more tolerant and more aware of LGBTI people than in the past.

That presented a challenge to Anglo-Nigerian film maker Adaora Nwandu when she decided to make the movie “Rag Tag,” which premiered in 2006.

“Finding actors for the movie was really difficult, as people were not ready to kiss a man for any reason,” she said in the latest No Strings podcast, titled “Why I Did Rag Tag”:

“I was heavily discouraged, as my then professor said doing a film about homosexuality would kill my career as a film maker. Investors were few, but friends and family strongly supported the project, even as they were not in support of its contents.”

The film is not centered on sex because, she said, “I decided to make a film about people who were in it for the long run.”

“Rag Tag” is the story of two male childhood friends who become lovers as adults. This is its summary on Netflix:

Poster for
Poster for “Rag Tag” lists awards the film has won.

“Best friends from childhood, Raymond (Daniel Parsons) and Tagbo (Adedamola Adelaja) are separated for a decade. When they reunite, they find that the bond between them has become even stronger — although the divergent paths they’ve taken with their lives present a challenge. When the men travel together to Nigeria, they discover just how intimate their feelings have become. Back home, however, they must confront the obstacles to those feelings. “

In the No Strings podcast,  “Adaora Nwandu, creator of the film, takes us behind the scenes of what happened and what it took her to finally get it out,” podcast host Mike Daemon says. The No Strings podcast is a voice for the LGBTI community in  Nigeria.

The Guardian’s review of the film in 2007 touches on some of the challenges that Nwandu faced:

“Rag Tag” poster

“After recruiting Damola Adelaja, a Nigerian-born actor studying at Rada, Nwandu spotted club promoter Danny Parsons at Shepherd’s Bush tube. Both men are straight and were reluctant to embrace such unusual roles, especially as Parsons had never acted before.

“Nwandu, who studied experimental psychology at Oxford University, detected chemistry between the pair and craftily set about developing it. Once they braved their first screen kiss, she made them kiss every day ‘so they wouldn’t fall out of the habit.’ On set, she says, she antagonised them so they’d unite against her. She even made them share a bed when filming in Nigeria.

“Her virtually sub-zero budget (she borrowed £30,000 from friends and family) means that the seams show. The film won’t win any awards for cinematography or editing; the first critics have judged some of the supporting performances decidedly shaky. But if films won prizes for obstacles overcome, then Rag Tag would be bound for an Oscar. One of Nwandu’s three cameras broke. She repeatedly ran out of money. When they filmed at the London nightclub Chinawhite — a favour called in by Parsons, who still combines acting with shifts there — their extras failed to show, so they had to drag in teenagers from Leicester Square to go ‘clubbing.’ “

The Guardian review also states:

“Rag Tag is Nwandu’s interpretation of ‘slash,’ the underground genre of fan fiction on the Internet in which fans — mainly women — invent and share fantasies about famous men having sex, from Captain Kirk and his colleagues to Pete Doherty and Carl Barat. As a straight woman, she sees nothing unusual in this. … ‘There is something about male sexuality that fascinates women. I know I am not alone.’ “

In the United States, at least, the film is currently available for streaming and as a DVD from Netflix and also from Amazon.com.

The podcast “Why I Did Rag Tag” can be downloaded or streamed  from the No Strings website.

For past and future podcasts, visit the No Strings website.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

23 Comments

Leave a Reply

    Leave a Reply

    LGBTI advocates hail Uganda acquittal, unite against rape

    Anglican Church of Kenya conducts anti-gay purge