“No one is going to America now, that’s for sure!”
A simple statement uttered at the end of Gone Nine Months packs within it a massive punch.
Massive enough to deflate dreams and birth regret, and that is exactly what it was purposed to do and did.
Written and directed by Lola Okusami, and set in 1990s Nigeria, Gone Nine Months is a layered and slowly unraveling short film about a woman’s fight to pursue professional and academic growth, and the friction her ambition creates within her family, specifically with her husband. The character in focus, Agnes Olajuwon (Najite Dede) is a lecturer at the University of Southwestern Nigeria; a career she’s worked hard to build while also tending to her husband and five children. The film opens with the delivery of a long awaited acceptance letter from the French Institute for a one-year postgraduate fellowship in France. Though she wishes the Americans would give her a chance, the French would certainly do. An acceptance letter means she needs to obtain a visa to France, but getting a visa is not her only or most pressing issue. Her husband, Tunde Olajuwon (Olu Euba) is not enthusiastic or supportive of her ambitious pursuit, unfortunately, his lack of support weighs nothing in comparison to the bombshell that is soon to hit her; this obstacle might as well be insurmountable. The roadblocks she has to conquer as a woman and wife may pale in comparison to the roadblock she has to conquer as a mother. Will she be able to overcome this one obstacle?
Gone Nine Months is the battle many African women, if not all women, have to fight to balance life and get a semblance of an identity beyond wife and mother. Agnes fights the battle with external and societal expectations, and with a cold husband whose dominance and power as husband and father are felt throughout the short film. From his younger children scrabbling to get out of the way when he arrives home from work to the countenance of his oldest children shifting from relaxed to unsettled anticipation to his wife, Agnes, slight face twitch from relaxed to docile and anxious, every scene he appears in is tense, mimics his signature grunts and keeps us at the edge of our seat. Although joy is definitely present within the Olajuwon household, it is only between Agnes and her five children, and between the siblings. Gone Nine Months brilliantly portrays a power imbalanced and unsupportive relationship, where he or she may not hit you, but wrecks you nonetheless
Caught in the middle of a husband’s expectation and a wife’s desire are five children who are padlocked in literally and figuratively The oldest, Isha (Zoe Favour), is being groomed to be a wife and mother someday. The responsibilities of caring for her siblings when the parents are not home are placed squarely on her shoulders; a role she also embodies at school. All five children are caught in the conflict of their parents’ dreams and expectations, and their own desires to be young and teen. Gone Nine Months introduces us to a seemingly progressive and educated family dealing with the nuances of patriarchy within the boundaries of family life.
I give Gone Nine Months 4 Stars