Women’s rights are human rights. But they have never come easy. Every single advancement has been fought for with blood, sweat and tears. Even more so in one of Africa’s poorest countries. Nigerian society, like many in Africa, retains a very patriarchal system. The documentary, Mrs F, directed by Dutch filmmaker Chris Van Der Vorm, traces one such fight to right a non-inclusive system.
Mrs F is a theatrical director interested in putting on shows that can empower women. She goes into Makoko, the largest floating slum in the country and tries to establish a community version of Hear Word, her popular play with assistance from some of Nollywood’s biggest stars. To do this, Mrs F recruits women from the community and convinces them to fight for their rights through their participation in the play. By highlighting the challenges they face as women living in that particular community, Mrs F hopes that these women can reclaim their agency.
As Mrs F tries to find ways to realize her goal, Van Der Vorm busies himself with showing how deeply patriarchal the community is. From pastors to uber drivers, fishermen to traditional rulers. Judeo-Christian values are the basis for their misogyny and the Bible is the first line of defense.
The woman is nothing without the man and she must be prepared to follow her husband’s lead anytime. These men fail to see the hypocrisy in a system that has served them so well along the years. The reality is that in Makoko, it is the women who drive the informal economy with their trading activities.
Mrs F’s quiet power lies in observing these women being led to find their voice and discover their power. Audiences can see this as the rehearsal sessions gradually build their confidence. One of the girls recruited by Mrs F, long used to being groped by men while going about her business even finds the vim to put a stop to it. At the final show, their blossoming is evident for all to see.
Women’s rights clearly aren’t just a social issue, they are also an economic one. Van Der Vorm’s film explains how empowered women can actually improve the economy. Mrs F shows how to spark a fire inside a person and how giving one person a voice can eventually change an entire community.
RAJAONAH Elinoro Véronique
This story emanates from the Talent Press, an initiative of Talents Durban in collaboration with the Durban FilmMart. The views of this article reflect the opinions of the film critic, RAJAONAH Elinoro Véronique. https://www.berlinale-talents.de/bt//talent/elinoroveronique-rajaonah/profile