Saturday, July 17, 2010

'GRA Women' and the Men That Love Them (or Not)

We're getting a new soap opera!
Beyond the glitz, glamour, facade of exotic cars, apparels and lifestyles, people, albeit women, who live in posh neighbourhoods, do have their own fair share of challenges, just like the average individual. This is the idea behind ‘GRA Women’, a soap opera that was premiered at the Protea Hotel, Ikeja GRA, in Lagos, on Friday July 9.

Written and produced by Nigerian filmmaker, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, the event had an array of stars in attendance, many of whom said they could not get enough of the highly intriguing drama.

Speaking at the premiere about the idea behind the soap opera, Anyiam-Osigwe said, “GRA Women is an idea I had all along for a long time now, but decided to produce after I got the right team to work with. A lot of families who live in the GRA have old family connections, as such you see that everyone is connected to the other in one way or the other. Those old family connections and things that happen in GRA are some of the things I want to showcase with this family drama.”

Sounds a bit like Sex and the City (hold the sex) meets Real Housewives of... Lagos. Or something. Among the cast of characters is "an adulterous pastor, and wife who do not have a child; girls on the fast lane; a philandering senator and his lonely wife, amongst many others." So basically, easy to typecast and sell as familiar. Unless the writing is good and the emphasis is places less on leather chairs in the living room and more on the quality of the work. And there have been some good Nigerian soap operas. I remember being a huge fan of "Domino" when I was in Nigeria and who in their right minds didn't like "Checkmate" when it aired?

"Superstory" is where it ends, though. Don't know whether it's still running, but I can't stand "Superstory".

Maybe I wouldn't be so inclined to make fun of this if the filmmaker hadn't said she wants this to be a "family drama". At its best, this should be like every bad edition of National Encomium (or other Lagos-based tabloid article) come to life, full of gossip and cattiness and hilarity to no end. But that would be awesome. I would love to watch that.

More seriously, I'm always on edge whenever Nigerian filmmakers have to depict Nigerian women. I don't care that this filmmaker is a woman -- the trouble with chauvinism is that it makes its convinces the people being shoved aside that they deserve it. I bristle when I hear women saying that they'd rather not have female bosses, and that women are more likely to drag each other down. The trouble with women in Nigerian cinema is that they're never personalities, just caricatures. The long-suffering wife who is thus revered by her children as some kind of saint, the university good-girl-gone-bad, the good girl who is demure and goes to church, to bad one who smokes cigarettes and goes to clubs. I don't know this filmmaker's work -- I'm most familiar with Emem Isong among the female Nigerian filmmakers -- but I wonder to what extent she buys the narrative, and how she will take it on in this series.

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