15 April 2016

Interview with Solomon Onita Jr about the film "JOY"

Guest blog by Imuetinyan Ugiagbe.

When a woman migrates to a new country, she does not only pack the necessary items such as clothes and shoes, She also carries the cultural and traditional beliefs of her homeland, belief she may begin to question once in the foreign environment.

A first-generation Nigerian filmmaker Solomon Onita Jr. in his most recent short film, Joy explores the cultural clashes of a Nigerian family living in the United States. In the film, he tells the story of a woman who is trying to convince her husband not to circumcise their ten years old daughter, poetically named Joy. 

To help understand the film, it is best to know what Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Circumcision as it is also called means: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Female Genital Mutilation is partial or total removal of a woman's clitoris. It is projected that “about 3 million girls from infancy to 15 years of age are at risk of being mutilated each day. It is also estimated that more than 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone the practice.”  It is viewed as the right of passage for some countries in Africa, Middle East and Asia, but the unveiling truth is the practice leaves many women and girls with physical, emotional and psychological pain.

Onita claims he titled the film Joy because “I thought the little girl is the only Joy of the woman’s life.”  Being that two of her children had died at fancy, the surviving daughter represents her pride and joy. The soon to be graduate became aware of the practice through a conversation with one of his college professors. The conversation inspired further research on the subject some years later, which ultimately led to the creation of the film. One of the most poignant themes of the film is the protagonist’s struggle to reconcile commitment to her culture with concern for the welfare of her child. This struggle is at the heart of Joy. To reject a belief rooted in one’s soul feels like a betrayal, but to protect one’s child is a mother’s strongest desire. Onita hopes the film will provoke viewers to consider the potential harm caused by some traditional practices before passing them to their children.

Listen to my conversation with Solomon Onita Jr

The film Joy screened at over 60 film festivals, was a finalist in the 2016 HBO Short Film Competition, and was subsequently distributed on all of HBO’s platforms. 

It can now be viewed on YouTube.