Wives on Strike
Uche Jombo, Chioma Akpotha, Ufuoma Mcdermott, Kehinde Bankole, Kalu Ikeagwu, Julius Agwu, Kenneth Okonkwo
A comedy about a group of market women who decided to take matters into their own hands against their husbands in a bid to stir them into standing up for a young girl whom they wanted to protect from the wishes of her own father.
"Mummy save me"
Wives on Strike was made in the heat of the #ChildNotBride conversation. On the one hand we were trying to #BringBackOurGirls and on the other hand we were dealing with a senate that was almost outright permitting the marriage of underage girls. In this film, the writer is possibly kinder than real life because the girl in the situation is at least 13 years old and every other girl mentioned is also at that age. However, in reality it is common knowledge that a Child Bride can be as young as 8 years old.
In this movie (which by the way we need to constantly remember is mostly a comedy), a band of market woman team up to fight the
selling off marriage of their neighbor’s daughter, Amina, to a rich Alhaji. In an attempt to get their husbands to care and intervene, they start a strike that eventually ripples into a nationwide phenomena against the child bride.
It is easiest to think of this movie in two halves. The first half is the local effect – when the main goal is stopping Amina’s marriage, and the second half is the national effect – when we meet the Senator and the politics comes into play.
The first half hits you in a manner where you have to side-eye this piece like, “is this really the movie that generated all that hype?” In the first half, most if not all of the scenes could be classified into three groups: they all either felt like a talk show, a play, or a sermon. Not a lot of organic story telling and not a lot of believable moments. You don’t ever get into the point where the movie pulls you in and you feel like part of the story, but it’s a comedy.
The one part where you should feel that way at least, was in the moments in papa Amina’s home. In the moments where Mama Amina is pleading the case of her daughter and trying to convince her husband not to sell her off to an old Alhaji. These scenes would have worked, they could have invoked the emotions. However, for some reason or the other the pairing of Ufuoma and Udoka don’t ever manage to get past their “individually-OKAY-performances” and get into a point of chemistry or real tangible emotions.
Can we take a moment to appreciate the irony of the world that this movie is set in. It’s a world in which a father doesn’t bat an eyelid before pawning off his daughter in order to gain financial stability. It’s a world in which the men, even up to the highest ranks, are so audacious about their bad habits that they are even speaking of legalizing the status of a child bride. It is a world where neighbors and uncles that smile with you can only do that much but refuse to open their mouth against it when you’re being sold off. Yet, it’s a world where wives can strike against these same men without any issue of marital rape and the men just “respect their wishes”. Instead they act like this is “Think Like a man” or some western/evolved country (please note my sarcasm abeg) and respond by forming their own group to think up methods to counteract it. When did we become so democratic? The movie sets up an autocracy of the men and then gives me democratic men? What a believable juxtaposition.
And then we have the second half. At this point it feels more like a movie with some sort of conviction, either that or we’ve gotten used to the talk show-play-sermon format. In the second half we meet the political players. Chioma’s character’s husband, played by Kalu Ikeagwu, is a senator who is aggravated at his wife’s involvement in this strike and how it makes him and his party look.
At this point in the movie, I’m done looking for cohesiveness in the characterizations of these ‘characters’. Am I going to spare a thought on the irony that he’s angered about his wife pointing out an issue that he has the power to change, yet the things that angers him is his image and not the fact that he has done nothing to change it? No, I am not because at this point of the movie my only thoughts are… it’s just a comedy.
In order to go through this movie feeling that it was anything short of a Public Service Announcement, one must truly embrace that it is just a comedy. One must also live in a world where comedy is not held to cohesive standards. Where comedy does not require that your characters are realistic or humans. Where your subject matter can go from a fairytale land setting (where papa Amina is suddenly okay with his wife taking up a job after he almost sold off his daughter a few months ago) back to the land of reality and vice versa time and time again without question.
One thing that could have been done to take this movie from the status it is at right now to something cohesive and worth another watch would have been to hire a professional and learned scriptwriter. Someone with skill enough to create comedy in real situations with believable characters – comedy that manages to hit the matter on the head of the issue, highlight the irony of our reality and still give laughs to the audience.