Budgetary constraints don’t dampen the emotional rawness of Victor Viyuoh’s feature debut “Ninah’s Dowry.” Clearly made with love and a halting Kickstarter campaign, the pic is helped immeasurably by Mbufung Seikeh’s perf as a battered wife unable to rally villagers to her defense. Viyuoh pointedly expands his condemnation of one community to encompass the African continent’s self-defeating apathy toward its distaff side, making a strong statement, at times via crude means. Fests and streaming sites looking for sub-Saharan fare could belatedly help bankroll this “Dowry.”
When she learns her father is dying, Ninah (Seikeh) goes to her birthplace to ask why he married her off to violent husband Memfi (Anurin Nwunembom); the younger man is a good-for-nothing drinker with brutal fists, and she’s had enough. Reluctantly leaving her three kids, she opens an eatery in her native village, but Memfi and cohorts come to drag her back. In her desperation, Ninah compares Africans to crabs in a bucket, pulling each other to the bottom rather than letting one escape. Scenes of Memfi’s cruelty are deeply disturbing, yet their power helps overcome tech inadequacies like minimal-to-nonexistent color correction.