ainted faces, big smiles, and a frenzied air announce a marriage in a rural West African village. Women doll the bride up in white cloth embroidered in greens and reds, the traditional wear of the Fulani, a large nomadic group that’s spread across the region. Over the bride’s face, a pink veil falls demurely. As she makes her way to the wedding ground, a crowd surrounds her, dancing to the beat of hand-held drums while women ululate.
But the joyous celebration soon morphs into a slaughter as terrorists attack. Women fall from bullets and men are hacked. Over her mother’s corpse, a baby cries, looking into the camera as it pans away: Hers is one small story in a sea of tragedies. The bride and other women are carted away, and their life as slaves and fighters’ brides begins.
Nigeria’s new film “The Milkmaid” takes viewers on an intimate journey into lives they rarely see: people who are at the receiving end of a brutal Islamist insurgency that has gripped northeast Nigeria for over a decade, and spread to several countries in the Sahel region.
Newspaper headlines announcing casualties have become so frequent that reactions have turned lukewarm. Outside the northeast, where Boko Haram seeks to carve out a caliphate, it’s easy to forget that behind those numbers are real lives. But “The Milkmaid” reminds, and it is a mind-clawing, well-shot reminder – for those who can see it, that is.
In this still image from "The Milkmaid," fiery protagonist Aisha, portrayed by actress Anthonieta Kalunta, confronts a militant who hit her after forcing her and other kidnapped women to work long hours in a field.