- Director: Aoife O'Kelly
- Writer: Aoife O'Kelly; Jude Dibia
- Producer: Funmi Iyanda; Olumide Makanjuola; Xeenah Mohammed; Victoria Thomas
This is a bit of a head-scratcher...an 'Irish lass' [that's how she describes herself] directs a story about a gay man...set in Nigeria, adapted from the 2005 eponymous book by Nigerian writer, Jude Dibia.
So...a few firsts. First feature by Aoife O'Kelly. First Nigerian book and the first Nigerian/British co-production ever to deal with homosexuality...yes, there is a great big elephant in the room that needs to be addressed, how on earth did Aoife O'Kelly get involved?
In these days when [a growing number of] voices are [quite rightly] screaming about more inclusivity and more diversity [within the film industry]...here's an African, black gay man's story...directed by a white [northern hemispherical] woman! Yes...we do want more women directors...but, at the risk of sounding like a bit of a reactionary...couldn't 'they' [the producers] have found someone more suited to this material? Perhaps, someone who wasn't so far out of their [cultural] comfort zone?
The other big question is: Does the film suffer because of the director? In some ways it does...rather than getting under the character's skin, it's more a case of looking in on him...in other words, everything is shown rather than felt. This story needed tangible and monumental feelings of...anger, frustration, betrayal...desolation and disappointment. For example, the exorcism scene had all the necessary ingredients for a potent [and pivotal] duel between fury and terror, doubt and devotion. It should have been climactic...but, alas, no. What Walking with Shadows lacks is...passion. It's just a little too safe and understated.
It's not a bad film [especially for being a first feature]...and, it has to be applauded for its obvious bravery. Look...it could have been...but, it's nowhere near to being a Moonlight...a multi-Oscar-winning [small] film, directed by a gay African-American man about a gay African-American man. When you can get this close to the subject, you can get right under the skin.
Ebele Njoko (Ozzy Agu) has been running all his life. A search for acceptance and love from his family has led him to recreate himself as Adrian – respected father, husband and brother. When his mask is cruelly stripped away, Adrian’s world rapidly unravels. Adapted from Jude Dibia’s award-winning and critically acclaimed novel, Aoife O’Kelly’s articulate and sensitive film deftly discards the sensational for a depiction of queer Nigeria presented with care and incisive observation. The film is anchored by heartfelt performances from Ozzy Agu and Zainab Balogun as Ada, Adrian’s wife. Together, they explore a painful rift in a loving bond. Adrian’s quiet resilience throughout underlines the necessity for one to be self-loving, despite the cost.