Vanessa (Jackie Appiah) and her mum, Ibiso (Hilda Dokubo), are Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) who contract HIV from their vocation. They are deserted by loved ones as they fight for survival.
Dagogo Diminas’s Stigma is a narrative which emphasizes another route of transmission of HIV other than sexual intercourse. It is absolutely relevant because in some parts of Nigeria, it is customary for women to patronize TBAs and only report to hospitals when delivery proves herculean for the TBA and complications arise after delivery.
The story’s setting is spot-on because this practice is very common in rural areas. Many of the characters created by the screenwriters and the director are three-dimensional: they catch the audience’s attention, are intriguing and also believable. Leading the pack are Smart (Sobifaa Dokubo), Telema (Ngozi Nwosu), Ibiso (Hilda Dokubo) and Ebiye (Daniel Braide).
Stigmatization of victims and those associated with them is full-blown in the flick. Ebiye calls Dr. Jide (Emeka Ike) the “AIDS lover”, not a tribute to the fact that Jide takes care of HIV/AIDs patients rather he says it to ridicule his girlfriend, probably convinced that Jide is the one spreading the disease. No one mourns with the family when Ibiso dies for fear of contracting the disease from the late woman’s corpse or from her daughter, who is still living with the ailment!!! The van driver who gives Vanessa a lift cannot afford to let her sit in the car; she sits in the open compartment. The sight of very poor hospital facilities is a reminder that many health care institutions contribute to the death of patients even those that suffer from minor diseases.
Despite the merits, there are several flaws in Stigma. For two sexually active women, it is not possible that no one amongst Ibiso’s husband, Smart, and the numerous women he sleeps with on the one hand and Ebiye, Vanessa’s boyfriend, on the other hand, contracts the disease. It was enough to expose how the disease originated, but limiting the disease to the two women only, regardless of the fact that sexual transmission accounts for a greater percentages of the incidence of HIV/AIDS, is unrealistic.
There is no significance to the roles played by Smart’s children: the young boy and girl. The movie will not lack anything if their parts are cut off. The lady counsellor exhibits appalling acting skills – she almost recites her lines. Why did the director not make her become conversant with it for an improved delivery? Ibiso beckons Vanessa and starts to discuss how she met Smart. Is the food expected to burn, given the lengthy discussion they engage in coupled with the fact that she never excuses herself so as to check her cooking?
Ibiso’s accent and pronunciation are inconsistent. How inappropriate it is for the first intimate scene between Smart and Ibiso to take place in front of little Vanessa! Vanessa tells Ebiye, “There is nothing between the doctor and I” “Me is the correct pronoun not I.
Vanessa agrees to marry the same man who left her in the lurch, indeed! Vanessa becomes instantly affluent because of award-winning pieces and the grants she receives to produce documentaries. Are we saying that grants are meant for personal use rather than the purposes stipulated by the grant-giving organization? There is a lot of abuse in the society by people who run not-for-profit organizations and Stigma should not have glorified that anomaly.
There was no visible loss of weight by Ibiso, whose illness is said to have graduated to AIDS before she died. In 1996, Hilda Dokubo played an AIDS patient in Zeb Ejiro’s Goodbye Tomorrow, co-starring Saint Obi, where her weight loss, following her illness was thoroughly life-like. It is worrisome that no attempt was made to make her look sickly in Stigma as she maintains the same robust look although the film.
It is interesting to see another Nollywood film on HIV/AIDS almost 20 years after Goodbye Tomorrow (A movie premised on promiscuity and HIV/AIDS); many years after Yet Another Day (An Esse Agesse Ogoro Production), Visa to Hell (A Fidelis Duker Film) and Dark Moment (starring Omotola Jalade Ekeinde and Emeka Ike), an Aquila Njamah film, which is probably the most fascinating film on HIV/AIDS made in Nigeria. Inside Story is another exceptional film on HIV/AIDS, starring Hakeeem Kae Kazeem and other stars from across Africa. Inside Story fuses the operation of the HIV virus in the human body with entertainment in an impressive way.
Stigma is a reminder that though the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is on the decline, the disease is still with us.