Durban Festival: ‘Boy’ Helmer’s Path to Screen Full of Curves

Lagos-born helmer Chika Anadu took an unconventional path toward filmmaking, which led to her first feature, “B for Boy,” which has its South African premiere in Durban on July 19. “I never considered it as a profession,” she says. “No one around me was doing it as a child.”

Instead, Anadu moved to England to pursue some high-powered degrees: first, with a B.A. in law and criminology, then with a master’s degree in human and sustainable development in Africa.

It wasn’t until she moved back to Lagos that she found herself at the French cultural center, watching the sorts of foreign films she fell for in England. On the day she watched “Cinema Paradiso,” she was hooked. “That’s when I realized I wanted to be a filmmaker,” she says.

Anadu proved to be a fast study. Having worked her way through close to a decade of higher learning, she knew she wasn’t ready to go back to film school. She took a more practical approach. “I was — I don’t know if you call it foolish or brave enough to believe that all the films I watched were enough film school for me,” she says.

Much of the credit, she says, goes to the mother who raised her and supported her unexpected decision. The gamble paid off quickly. Within a year of lensing her first short, Anadu was selected for the Cannes Cinefondation Residence Program, where she began developing “B for Boy,” which preemed two years later at the BFI in London in 2013 and won the Breakthrough Award at the AFI fest.

Pic tells the story of a successful career woman in Lagos who, after suffering a miscarriage — and facing pressure to produce a son — attempts to buy another woman’s unborn child. Present throughout the pic is the burden of expectation placed on a woman living within a largely patriarchal culture.

At its heart, says Anadu, the story speaks to broader inequalities that women face across the globe. “That’s what I want people to take away from the film,” she says. “Not that it’s a Nigerian or African problem. It’s on a much larger scale.”

While addressing the challenges that face women today, Anadu has had to deal with the added burden of being a filmmaker in a country famous for its low-budget fare. “People have preconceptions about Nollywood,” she says, although she adds that most auds are pleasantly surprised when they see her film.

Still, Anadu acknowledges her debt to the prolific biz. “I always say if there was no Nollywood, there would be no me,” she says, “because I wouldn’t have known it was possible to be a filmmaker.”

Tastes in Nigeria are also starting to evolve, she says.

“The audience is getting more sophisticated, and I think those people who have been consuming so much Nollywood fare are ready for something new.”

 

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