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:
“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:
“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.’ “
For past and future podcasts, visit the No Strings website.
- Nigeria survey: Progress on LGB issues, a long way to go (76crimes.com)
- Wikipedia article about “Rag Tag”
- It started with a kiss. (Guardian review of “Rag Tag” from 2007)
Related articles about No Strings podcasts:
- Denial, prayer, fasting — growing up LGBTIQ in Nigeria (Aug. 27, 2015)
- A life in Nigeria: ‘Discovered, abandoned, depressed’ (Aug. 18, 2015)
- Podcast exposes attack on LGBTI Nigerians at hotel (Aug. 11, 2015)
- LGBTI depression — topic for latest Nigerian podcast (Aug. 1, 2015)
- Relationship problems: Topic of Nigerian LGBTIQ podcast (July 24, 2015)
- Nigeria: Why the West keeps its hands off (July 4, 2015)
- Nigerian film maker: ‘Yes! You can be an LGBTIQ Christian’ (June 22, 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Nigerian podcast: I was outed, jailed, bailed, shunned (June 15, 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Hate, gender non-conformity: Topics of Nigerian podcast (June 5, 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Nigerian podcast, website join fight against homophobia (May 22, 2015, 76crimes.com)