Stephanie Linus’s Dry begins with Zara Robbins receiving an award at an event, where her adopted mother is present. Her mother is white. If you paid attention to details in the film, you will still not quickly understand how a white woman’s child should have a black skin. This is why every detail in the film is important.
Dry is not really about Dr. Zara. It is about Halima (Zubaida Fagge), who is 13 years old and married off to Sani (Tijani Faraga), a 60-year-old man, who constantly rapes her.
Immediately after the traditional rites, Sani rapes Halima. She wakes up the next morning and says to one of her co-wives: “Uncle bit me. My body is paining me.”
Halima gets pregnant and suffers Vesico Vaginal Fistula, after child delivery. Now, we see her abandoned by her husband and her own father and overly discriminated by the society. They say she smells. They throw things at her in the market. They say she disgusts them. Her co-wives want her out. She is thrown out by her husband and his mother. This is when Zara (Ms. Linus) comes into the picture.
For the most part, Dry is excellently made. If the script was different from the actualized story, then it is well understood.
Throughout the film, we are transported back and forth: Nigeria and England. The filmmakers may not have known, but an anthropological find shows that these scenes were shot in the countryside. However, one is overly penury-stricken. And those are the ones in Nigeria, where we are waiting to receive Zara, whose mother should have made the journey, but for ill-health. She is worried that over 1,000 women’s lives are dependent on her, so Zara has to come in even though she doesn’t want to go. She carries an internal wound from her past, which takes her to a shrink.
Zara travels to Nigeria, for so many reasons. On her journey to find Madam Kojo, who sold her daughter, we are presented with details: what VVF is, how many women it, how it happens, how can it be cured?
No matter how you may want to summarise it, Dry is a propagandist work but a beautifully stitched story about humanity. It drags you through the facades of beauty; it takes you on a walk through the surface of imperialism. This is because we are presented with a hard truth about child marriage.
Ms. Linus has created unforgettable characters, stapled with a storyline that, at once, amazes and truncates you. When we see Halima being married off to a very old man, many times her age, we are stunned. We laugh, but what we feel inside is stronger than what we show on the surface.
Dry is masterly orchestrated. The more you watch, the more you want to know what happens to the characters. There is absolutely nothing the film lacks. Those who don’t like it, do so at their peril. Its cinematography is beautifully patterned and like a journey too far to do, the audience will find themselves longing for the salvation of Halima.
Onyeka Nwelue is an Assistant Professor of African Literature at the University of Manipur, Imphal, and a Visiting Lecturer of African Studies at the University of Hong Kong.