Reflections (2022) Dramatizes An All Too Prevalent Social Ill.
Directed by Tosan Anyanfulu and written by Kelvin Amamize as part of a project for the Ebony Life Creative Academy, Reflections explores the lasting effects of childhood trauma in adulthood There are too many of us, especially in a country such as Nigeria where not enough attention is paid to mental health issues, who are broken and unhealed from terrible events or conditions we suffered in our early years. Reflections places such situation front and center, showing how demons of the past almost always find their way to the present.
The movie opens on a shot of a sunflower slowly coming into focus as a conversation between a child and an adult is heard.
“What are you going to be today?”
“But you’re already beautiful.”
“No, I wouldn’t want you flying away from me. Choose something else.”
This exchange, a classic example of a predator grooming a victim, stings the viewer. The words instantly cut deep and reveal right at the beginning the subject matter at the heart of the short.
Kenena (Genoveva Umeh), a young woman initially seen working from home on a project, wakes up from a bad dream. She is the young girl in the above exchange and it is clear she is still being haunted by her trauma. Kenena makes her way to the bathroom where she encounters the movie’s most striking image: the young Kenena, in her school uniform, together with her abuser, holding her hands and staring guiltily. The older Kenena stands there transfixed, unable to react until the younger Kenena slams the door in her face.
Reflections won the Albantsho prize for Best Screenplay at the first edition of the Annual Film Mischief, Less is More, and the reason for its much deserved win is evident. Much attention is paid to detail in the way the film is crafted. For instance, Kenena’s abuser is dressed in a white singlet, the exact same thing her boyfriend in the present is wearing. The use of mirrors as gateways to the past is also worthy of note.
The lines between reality and fantasy are blurred when Kanene’s abuser strangles her in her room and in trying to defend herself against him, she ends up hitting her boyfriend, lying on the bed beside her. An obvious but powerful metaphor for how past trauma can affect our ability to form meaningful bonds and relationships in adulthood.
The following day, by going to a therapist. Her boyfriend reaffirms that he is there for her. The abuser returns, bloodied and out of breath. But this time he is unable to harm Kanene. She has begun the process of healing.