The mourners are bewildered, suspicious and angry
It is a uniquely African situation: mourners gather at a funeral to commemorate yet another suspicious, unexpected and fathomless loss. The quote above describes the situation at the funeral of Chief Moshood Abiola, the democratically elected yet uninaugurated president of Nigeria who died in suspicious circumstances in 1998. Two decades later, the killings continue and it is estimated that there have been at least 160 political assassinations in Nigeria since the end of military rule in 1998.
Directed by Joanna Lipper, The Supreme Price is a film about the pro-democracy movement in Nigeria and the struggle to end military rule. It focuses primarily on Hafsat Abiola, the daughter of Chief Abiola (known as MKO Abiola) and his second wife Kudirat Abiola.
Expertly combining historical footage and present-day interviews, the film follows the rise of MKO Abiola to power and his bid for the 1993 presidency of election. Though elected in a democratic election, the presidency was stolen from Abiola when the election was annulled. Following a successful campaign overseas, Abiola returned to Nigeria to fight for his mandate but was subsequently charged with treason and put into solitary detention. He later died in suspicious circumstances days after meeting with UN officials.
During his detention, his wife Kudirat Abiola began to fight for his freedom and became a tireless campaigner for the pro-democracy movement in Nigeria. Once she realised that the West was not willing to sanction or boycott Nigerian oil, she convinced Nigerian oil workers to go on strike for 12 weeks. Kudirat was assassinated in 1996 and her killers were later acquitted of all charges.
Any society that is silencing its women has no future
Hafsat Abiola was a student at Harvard when her mother was assassinated. In fact, Kudirat had been scheduled to fly to the US for Hafsat’s graduation on the day that she was killed. Hafsat realised that when confronted with a society that was silencing its women, there was no other option than for her to continue her mother’s work. And so from the exile, corruption and poverty in Nigeria, Hafsat works to unite women and give them a voice. Through her organisation KIND, she connects women across the numerous regional, religious and language barriers in Nigeria and teaches them the power of collaboration.
The Supreme Price is superb and Joanna Lipper has done an incredible job in weaving together a film that tells the modern history of Nigeria in 75 minutes. This is no dry documentary, the film has an almost feature film-like quality in its use of haunting music, dramatic editing and heart-rending reveals.
I would highly recommend The Supreme Price to anybody who would like to gain an understanding of the recent history in Nigeria and the effects of years of military rule and corruption. This is an important film and especially relevant today. It provides a vital backdrop to the recent Nigerian election and an understanding of the relief of a nation in finally voting out Goodluck Jonathan. It describes the poverty and injustice of a society that produced Boko Haram and how that society will struggle to overcome these extremists unless real social change is brought about.
The film was featured in several film festivals in 2014 including the Human Rights Watch film festival and the 2014 Raindance festival. The Supreme Price directed by Joanna Lipper is screening internationally and in cinemas from Friday 22 May 2015.
About the Director
Joanna Lipper is an award-winning filmmaker and Lecturer at Harvard University where she teaches Using Film for Social Change in the Department of African and African-American Studies. Her work as a documentary filmmaker has been supported by the MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, ITVS, Britdoc Foundation, the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, Women Make Movies and Chicken & Egg Pictures. Her latest documentary, The Supreme Price, received the Gucci Tribeca Spotlighting Women Documentary Award and won Best Documentary at Africa International Film Festival. An extended trailer from the film was commissioned to launch Gucci’s Chime for Change Women’s Empowerment Campaign at TED 2013. Previous films Lipper has produced and directed include Inside Out: Portraits of Children (1996), Growing Up Fast (1999) and Little Fugitive (2006). Lipper is the author of the nationally acclaimed book Growing Up Fast. Her photography has been published and exhibited in the US and overseas.