The Milkmaid (2020) is a compelling and thought-provoking film that takes viewers on a journey into the world of Islamic fundamentalism in northeastern Nigeria. Directed by Desmond Ovbiagele, the film tells the story of Aisha and Zainab, two sisters and best friends whose lives are shattered by an unexpected visit from terrorists on Zainab’s wedding day.
The Intrigue Unfolds: False Alarms and Massacre
The Milkmaid starts with a shocking sequence of false alarms that ultimately lead to a massacre. Aisha, played brilliantly by Anthonieta Kalunta, takes on the role of the protagonist as she embarks on a risky and intense mission to find her kidnapped sister Zainab, portrayed by Maryam Booth. The film is entirely from Aisha’s perspective, drawing viewers into the world of Islamic jihadis as she navigates the challenges and dangers that come her way.
Forced Marriage and Radicalization
Aisha is forced into marriage with Dangana, portrayed by Usman Kona, a fundamentalist jihadi. Despite her circumstances, Aisha remains determined to reunite with her sister Zainab. However, when they finally meet, Zainab has become thoroughly radicalized and is now training other women to become fighters. The film depicts the complexities of human emotions, as Aisha struggles to reconcile with her sister’s changed mindset, while Dangana falls in love with Aisha and seeks to free her from the grip of the jihadis.
Exquisite Cinematography and Astute Storytelling
One of the strengths of The Milkmaid is its exquisite use of the landscape of northeastern Nigeria, providing a visually stunning backdrop to the story. The cinematography captures the beauty of the region, while also showcasing the harsh realities of life in a conflict zone. Ovbiagele’s direction is masterful, offering an astute and informed look into the world of religious fundamentalism.
The film goes into the misguided notions about Islam that drive the jihadis, with a keen awareness of the lust for power that fuels their cruelty. Despite the gravity of the subject matter, the film also presents moments of dark humor, such as Dangana’s comment to Aisha about seeing her without a mask in Paradise, which adds depth and complexity to the characters and their motivations.
Unanswered Questions and Dramatic Irony
The Milkmaid, however, also leaves some questions unanswered. How Aisha and Hauwa, played by Patience Okpala, manage to travel unarmed on a motorbike and receive a free pass in sensitive locations is puzzling, stretching the boundaries of dramatic irony. Similarly, Zainab’s sudden change of attitude raises questions about her motivations and character development.
Humanizing the Killers and Aggressive Cynicism
One of the most compelling aspects of The Milkmaid is its portrayal of the jihadis as multi-dimensional characters. Despite their heinous actions, they are depicted as thoughtful and funny at times, challenging the notion of simplistic portrayals of terrorists. The film stays aggressively cynical throughout, exposing the desire for power and respect as a motive often used by fascists.
The Milkmaid is a thought-provoking film that shines a light on the complexities of religious fundamentalism and its impact on individuals and communities. With its captivating storytelling, powerful performances, and stunning cinematography, it is a must-watch film that stimulates reflection and discussion on important social and political issues.