Desmond Ovbiagele, the writer-director of The Milkmaid, was inspired to choose his title by the design on the obverse of Nigeria’s 10-naira note: two Fulani women carrying baskets on their heads. Ten Naira equals less than three cents in U.S. currency. Keeping in mind that Ovbiagele was an investment banker before he turned to filmmaking, it’s easy to imagine the title as a subtle message about the role of women in the milieu the film portrays: Islamist extremists.
Since the beginning of the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria, more than 37,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been displaced.
The Milkmaid opens in a beautiful, almost idyllic environment, as two sisters, Zainab (Maryam Booth) and Aisha (Anthonieta Kalunta), prepare for Zainab’s marriage. But on the day of Zainab’s wedding, Boko Haram fighters intervene, killing many of the men and kidnapping the younger women, including Zainab. Determined to save her sister, Aisha tracks down the camp of the extremists and is herself taken captive.