Nigeria had submitted a film the previous year, but it was deemed ineligible. This year, the country pinned its hopes on “The Milkmaid,” written and directed by Desmond Ovbiagele. Even though the film didn’t make the Academy’s international film shortlist, it is making the rounds on the festival circuit. “Milkmaid” will play at the Pan-African Film Festival in the U.S. until March 14.
Nigerian investment banker Ovbiagele expanded into film when he started to feel “the stirrings of creative expressions,” as he puts it. After making a couple of movies, he was inspired by the kidnappings of the Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram to direct “The Milkmaid.”
Filmed with mostly non-pros, “Milkmaid” centers on two sisters, one of whom has been kidnapped by Islamic fundamentalists, which sends her sister on a search for the missing sibling.
While Ovbiagele had never even written a short story before entering showbiz, he has creative roots. His mother is a “properly published writer in Nigeria.”
The schoolgirls’ kidnapping in 2014 got a lot of worldwide attention, but it seemed to die away. “I felt the need to remind the world, so to speak, that the situation was clearly not going away,” he says in a Zoom interview from Lagos. Even last week, there were reports of other children being kidnapped by the group.
Production was not easy. In order to be authentic, Ovbiagele wanted the dialogue in Hausa language, but finding actors who spoke it was an issue.