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A New Drama Aims to Change How We View the Lives of African Women

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A new Nollywood (Nigeria’s version of Hollywood) drama aims to present a fresh perspective of the everyday lives of African women.

Set in Africa’s megacity of Lagos, Nigeria, Fifty (now streaming on Netflix) revolves around four women at a pivotal point in their lives: navigating careers, love, and relationships against the backdrop of African traditions and cultural obligations.

One of the film’s opening scenes takes place in a colorful and exuberant church setting, depicting religion, a central theme to most Nigerian family life. It is the sanctuary of the church that one of the lead characters, Kate (played by Nse Ikpe-Etim) grapples with being diagnosed with breast cancer.

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“In Nigerian society, you find that most women don’t have any outlets for many of life’s challenges, including marriage issues, and life-threatening diseases. Their only outlet is often the church, however, we all know the church can’t handle everything. That, for me, was the opportunity,” says Mo Abudu, the film’s executive producer and founder of EbonyLife Films, a subsidiary of EbonyLife TV, Africa’s first global Black entertainment and lifestyle television network.

“In many ways, the role of the church has played a similar role with Africans as it has with African-Americans. I think audiences will be drawn how similar we are with the Black diaspora in the U.S. and around the world.”

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The women’s lives are interwoven in magical ways. In their stories we get a peak into how African women at the height of their success relate, love, and support one another. The drama the four friends encounter will leave you wanting so much more. There’s 49-year-old Maria (played by Omoni Oboli) who is an affair with a married man that results in an unexpected pregnancy. There’s Tola, a reality TV starlet with an insidious family secret that threatens her marriage to her attorney husband. “The movie depicts the dilemmas and challenges as well as hopes and aspirations of women all over the world,” says Akande. 

“Fifty started as a story idea based on my life,” adds Abudu. “I thought it would be interesting to look at different scenarios women at 50 could face. Imagine that you’re 50 and you’re pregnant for the first time. Or at 50, you realize you’re in a relationship or marriage that you no longer want to be in.”

Much like Shonda Rhimes, whom Viola Davis credits with creating roles that “redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman and to be Black”— Abudu’s goal is to portray the multidimensional realities of African women. “The themes of the movie are universal but we also tackle important issues in terms of gender, culture and relationships,” she says.

Representation matters, now more than ever, and people of African descent want to see movies with people that look like them. Even with the boundaries of language and culture. Fifty scores high in depicting the lives of African women in a way we don’t see enough of.

Fifty is directed by Biyi Bandele (Half a Yellow Sun). You can stream it now on Netflix.