Hausa-language thriller The Milkmaid has been selected as Nigeria’s official submission for the 93rd US Academy Awards in the International Feature Film (IFF) category.
The film was chosen by the 12-strong Nigerian Official Selection Committee (NOSC), subject to approval by the IFF executive committee.
Out of five other films submitted – Sanitation Day, Voiceless, Oloture, Ibi (The Birth) and Eyimofe – The Milkmaid scored the overwhelming majority of votes.
The Milkmaid, shot with Hausa, Fulfulde and Arabic dialogue, is said to be an authentic Nigerian story with global relevance. Critics have hailed it for its acting, direction and cinematography and it has been screened in cinemas in Nigeria, Cameroon and Zimbabwe.
The film is written, produced and directed by Desmond Ovbiagele and deals with insurgency, especially as it affects women and children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Inspired by the image on Nigeria’s 10 naira note, the film tells the story of a Fulani milkmaid who confronts religious extremists in a rural African community in a quest to locate her missing sister, and how efforts to recapture her disrupted past prove complicated.
The film, shot on location in Taraba State in north-east Nigeria, is executive produced by New Jersey-based surgeon Oluseun Sowemimo and stars popular northern Nigerian actress Maryam Booth, in a cast that also includes Ibrahim Jammal, Anthonieta Kalunta and Gambo Usman Kona.
The NOSC is headed by filmmaker and education administrator Chineze Anyaene-Abonyi, who said there was a significant improvement in the quality of films received this year.
“The Academy’s approved parameters had to be diligently followed to select the country’s entry without prejudice. I must say that the Nigerian film industry is awakened to the internationally acceptable requirements for film production, though there would always be room for improvement in order to increase our competitive outlook every year,” she said.
The other NOSC members are: filmmaker and chairman of the Audio-Visual Rights Society of Nigeria Mahmood Ali-Balogun; filmmaker/talent manager Mildred Okwo; filmmaker/author Charles Novia; veteran actress turned filmmaker Ego Boyo; director and cinematographer Adetokunbo ‘DJ Tee’ Odubawo; theatre practitioner and head of production for M-Net West Africa Yibo Koko; group executive director of Filmhouse Cinemas and MD of FilmOne Entertainment Moses Babatope; CEO of Legend Box Office Bruce Ayonote; filmmaker and founder of the In-Short Film Festival Victor Okhai; actress and producer Omoli Oboli; and journalist/film critic Shaibu Husseini.
The 93rd edition of the Academy Awards is scheduled to take place at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood on April 25, 2021.