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It comes full circle. In 2004, the popular Nigerian journalist Funmi Iyanda invited a man to her talk show, New Dawn with Funmi. During that interview, the man, Bisi Alimi, came out as gay. It invoked the wrath of Nigerians, not only on him but on Iyanda for daring to use her platform that way. “When I did that interview I did not know how much punishment I would get,” she would say years later. “I was more concerned for him than myself. I was punished severely in ways I will not talk about, even now, until I am ready. It’s ridiculous.” The following year, 2005, another man, Jude Dibia, quietly published a novel. That book, Walking with Shadows, the first to humanize a gay character in Nigerian literature, became controversial, and, in years after, the point of departure in conversations about the representation of queerness in the country. Today, it is, quite simply, one of Nigeria’s most cited books in journalism and academia.

It has now been brought to the big screen by Iyanda, through her production company Oya Media, in partnership with The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERS). The film will premiere at the 63rd BFI London Film Festival, which will be held from 2–13 October 2019.

Produced & executive-produced by Iyanda, directed by Adife O’Kelly, and scored by Sammy El-Enany, the film stars Ozzy Agu, Zainab Balogun, Funlola Aifiyebi Raimi, Wale Ojo, and Adunni F. Ade. Co-producers are Victoria Thomas, She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak co-editor Xeenarh Mohammed, and former TIERS director Olumide F. Makanjuola, who is also listed as an executive producer. Other members of the film crew include its editor Matthew Maria, the director of photography Gerard Puigmal, the production designer Olatunji Afolayan, the line producer Asurf Oluseyi, and the associate producer Victor Lambert.

Film cover. Credit: Oya Media.

Here is a description of the film by Oya Media:

In Lagos, Nigeria, Ebele Njoko has been running all his life.

A search for acceptance and love from his family, has led him to recreate himself as Adrian Njoko, respected father, husband, and brother. Suddenly, Adrian’s past and secrets have caught up with him and his world soon begins to crumble as he frantically tries to control the growing ripple effect of a revelation. Walking With Shadows is adapted from Jude Dibia’s 2005 book of the same title, which was awarded Sweden’s Natur och Kultur Prize. It stars Ozzy Agu and Zainab Balogun.

Jude Dibia. Photo credit: Peter Kroon.

Here is a description of the novel from its second edition publishers, Lulu:

Ebele Njoko had survived a forlorn and poignant childhood, concealing a secret he could not explain and craving the love and approval of his parents. Years later he reinvents himself and is now known and respected as Adrian Njoko, father, husband, brother and mentor. One phone call and his life as he knows it is changed forever. In coming to terms with his dark secret Adrian is forced to choose between keeping his family or accepting a life of possible loneliness and rejection.

Dibia has since published two other novels, Unbridled (2007) and Blackbird (2011).

Funmi Iyanda. Image from Iyanda’s Instagram.

Watch the trailer below:

In July, the queer rights activist Pamela Adie released her documentary Under the Rainbow, Nigeria’s first about being lesbian.

Congratulations to Jude Dibia and Funmi Iyanda.

Buy Walking with Shadows on OkadaBooks or on Amazon.

Follow the film on Instagram.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he is a judge for The Gerald Kraak Prize and was a judge for The Morland Writing Scholarship in 2019. He is Nonfiction Editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

3 Responses to “The Funmi Iyanda-produced Adaptation of Jude Dibia’s Walking with Shadows, the First Novel by a Nigerian to Humanize Queerness, Will Premiere at the BFI London Film Festival | Watch Trailer” Subscribe

  1. PEARL OSIBU August 30, 2019 at 3:09 pm #

    Proud moment. Silence must be heard.

  2. Ngong Kluivert October 18, 2019 at 7:11 pm #

    This Is A Great Way To Sensitise People.

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