'I want to tell stories that can change the world’ – Nadine Ibrahim


White pick-up truck drives slowly into a deserted plot of land on the

edge of the forest. There are two men in the front seat and one is

wearing a red and white scarf over his face only exposing his eyes.

The camera zooms into the scene as the men turn and speak in Hausa to

the little girl in the back seat. She is no more than 12 years old.

She climbs out of the truck alone and walks into the woods and through

the other side until she reaches the highway. Here she finally rests,

sits by the roadside, her head in her hands and waits for a taxi.

This is where the story begins for viewers watching the new short

documentary, Through Her Eyes, a deeply moving account of a young

girl's internal journey to pulling off a suicide attack in Northern

Nigeria. For many people living in northeastern Nigeria, the threat

and fear of suicide attacks remain strong. Just two weeks ago there

was news of another bombing in Maiduguri that reports say claimed at

least 9 lives. The suicide bombers were young girls, a continuing

phenomenon that is just another unimaginable tragedy of the ongoing

reality of living in a world of insurgency and terrorism. There is a

double mourning and an intensified horror that comes with every new

headline of children used as weapons of warfare. But it remains a real

and growing problem. According to UNICEF statistics, in 2015, 44

children were used in suicide attacks and 75% of those children were

young girls.

Through Her Eyes was written and directed by Nadine Ibrahim, a young

Nigerian filmmaker born in Kaduna and still based in northern Nigeria.

So far, the short film has been featured in two international film

festivals. It is a semi-finalist at the Los Angeles Cinema Festival

and last November was nominated in the short film category at the

Africa International Film Festival. For such a short film it is a

stunningly powerful depiction, offering viewers an imaginative look at

the life of a 12-year-old female suicide bomber. It tells the story of

Azeeza, a young girl kidnapped from her village during a terrorist

raid and trained to carry out a suicide attack. We see the world

through her eyes, the people she encounters along the way to her

destination, the other children she sees playing, and the conversation

she has with the unknowing taxi driver carrying her to the place of

the crime. Along the way, Azeeza flashes back to scenes from her own

normal life before the kidnapping.

By choosing to tell the story from the perspective of the young girl,

Ms. Ibrahim gives voice to a segment of society that usually remains

voiceless. How does a young girl get to the point of committing such a

morally incomprehensible act? We are reminded not to forget that such

children are often victims themselves and not just villains. The film

takes a single narrative on this large topic to raise vital and

sensitive questions about the conditions under which young female

suicide bombers find themselves.

Ms. Ibrahim is only 23 years old. She studied media and film

production at the University of Gloucestershire and has worked on

projects for the United Nations, Fictionless films, Ebony Life TV and

FilmOne. She already knows the value of using her passion for the arts

to tell important stories that can help alter perspectives on

sensitive topics. I had a chance to watch Through Her Eyes during a

private screening in Abuja last month. I knew I had to interview Ms.

Ibrahim about her the film. She shared openly and with enthusiasm

about her art and her convictions. It is refreshing to engage such a

young woman who seems to have a clear sense of how to use her gifts to

try and make a positive mark in the world.

What made you want to become a filmmaker?

I've always wanted to tell peoples' stories, to create a platform for

other voices and I realized I could do it in a visually captivating

manner. I want to tell stories that can change the world. I think film

can be used as a powerful tool to generate awareness about what's

going on in our country and the world in general.

Why did you want to make this particular film, Through Her Eyes? How

did the idea come to you?

To be honest, a part of it was from listening to my mother almost

everyday on the phone during her interviews and in conversations. She

would always go on about how urgent this situation was and how things

needed to change. I heard her say, 'Children are not born terrorists."

And that just stuck with me. Something automatically clicked and I

knew I wanted to explore this subject more through film. And when I

kept seeing stories in the media I decided to do a bit of research. I

was stunned by how many children below the age of 18 were being

recruited and sent out to do these crimes. I couldn't get my head

around it. I wanted to look at female suicide bombers as victims and

not just criminals. I wanted to show people a different perspective.

It sounds like you mother has a very positive influence on you. How

would you describe what your mother does for a living?

My mother gives a voice to the voiceless. She cares more about

humanity than anything else. She always says, "Leave no one behind,"

and I strongly believe that she actually stands by what she says.

She's dedicated her life towards making the world the type of place

that everyone wants to actually live in. That's why she worked so hard

as Minister of Environment and with the SDGs, because it stands for

what she wants the world to be. I thought to myself, if she can change

the world, why can't I?

I attended your private screening and loved how you framed the event.

You had it in an art gallery surrounded by beautiful paintings all

with themes of women, Islam and Northern Nigerian and Islamic

cultures. Why did you do it this way?

I chose to show the film in an art gallery because of my passion for

art. I love photography, painting and film. I love how you can use

different mediums to tell the same story. And the story is so much

bigger than what I get to show of it. I want people to understand the

terrorism but I don't want the main discussion to be about a terrorist

group and how horrific they are, but rather I want people to think

about why this is even happening and what can be done about these

devastating consequences. I also want people to understand that there

is a rich and beautiful culture to this part of the world that exists

alongside the horror.

Were there specific challenges in trying to make this short film?

Yes. A lot of people were scared of telling a story about the

insurgency in the northeast. They were worried that if they took part

in the filming it could put their lives in danger. I found it hard to

find actors willing to be in the film. My first actress to play Azeeza

eventually backed out of the role because her mother felt it was too

unsafe. So two days before filming she called and said she couldn't do

it. A lot was riding on production and I was in a bind. It was nerve

wracking.

What did you do?

I started frantically asking around if anyone knew young female

actresses. Eventually someone directed me to a young drama student at

an Islamic primary school in the northern part of the country. I met

with the student's mother and she was keen on it because she believed

strongly in the message of the film. But when we started filming I did

have to have security on location.

What did you learn from making this project?

It was my first solo project in Nigeria. I learned a lot in terms of

how things work here and I met interesting people who joined the cast

and crew. No one on the production was older than 26 years old. We

were a young crew with a similar passion to tell important stories

about our country. That was very motivating and inspiring for me to

give this film my best. But funding was hard to find because of the

subject matter. When we were making the film there was a lot in the

news about the insurgency and attacks, and people didn't want their

names attached to a film that would be making a statement about the

issue.

You are a Muslim. What impact did your faith perspective have in

making this film?

Islam is a religion of peace. Seeing it portrayed as a violent

religion concerns me because people will misinterpret Islam to equate

to terrorism. They won't go further and research and see that is not

true. So much of what insurgents preach about Islam is a

misinterpretation of the Koran. What I show in my film has happened in

so many countries besides Nigeria. Children in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria

have been indoctrinated to believe that performing these crimes is in

line with Islam. But in my film I tried to show that internal struggle

a young person might have in believing this. The purpose of the film

is not to point fingers, or to put my cast or anyone at risk. I'm just

trying to tell a story the way I see it. Just creating awareness of

what's happening in our country. But I actually don't mention any

specific terrorists group in the film because I feel like it is a

universal story. Using children as suicide bombers is happening in

several countries around the world.

What do you hope this film will do specifically within Nigeria and in the world?

I hope when people watch the film that they will think differently

about what is happening in the country and that they will reconsider

how their particular tools can be used to engage in important issues

in our country. The youth can't just leave it to the older generation

because it doesn't seem to be affecting us directly. At the end of the

day it will affect us all.

Where can people view this film and what is next for you?

It's available online on Youtube. I'm going to start working on my

feature film. After this I'm ready to challenge myself even more and

test the waters. It will be a coming of age story.

About Temmyguru 11630 Articles
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