HBO’s newest documentary, STOLEN DAUGHTERS: KIDNAPPED BY BOKO HARAM, held an NYC screening Wednesday night as apart of “Women in the World.” hosted by founder Tina Brown.
The film covers the tragic mass kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls in 2015, a story that gained a lot of traction at the time. Since the 2015 around 100 of the girls have been freed, and the documentary follows their transition back into everyday life since returning. In a panel held after the screening, producer/writer Karen Edwards, and Obiageli Ezekwesili, an instrumental member of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign sat with host Tina Brown to discuss the film’s production and how heavy a role the Nigerian government played in its final story.
For producer Karen Edwards, getting access to the story was a lengthy unique process. “I spent 3 years following [this story].” She recounted for the panel, “When [the girls] were released we had to deal with the government. It was a negotiation with the government for exclusive access.”
In terms of gaining exclusive access, Edwards believes that the crew’s national affiliation played a major role. “Truth of the matter is I think they didn’t want a Nigerian crew in there,” she stated, “They wanted to control how the West saw it looking in, I think it was because we were a Western team of filmmakers they said yes.”
“To watch those young women make an effort to appear normal, as though nothing happened, but we know so much happened,” says Ezekwesili about first watching the film, “To see how their lives changed radically, even though you see the acceptance of their return back in the community, you still know that there’s a lot not being said.”
Ezekwesili says that she hope this film will keep the girl’s story alive. “I think that there’s this sense of triumphism on the part of our government that having returned 107 girls we should be grateful and move on.” She goes on, “Generally they continue to say ‘We are trying to get the rest of the girls’ but when we look at the inertia with which that is being done, there is an unhurriedness about it. There’s almost a melting away of these girls.”
“Some of the parents say, if I had known that my daughter would be kidnapped from school, I would never have allowed her go to school, and that breaks my heart,” she continues.
“There’s still so much that those girls will eventually tell us, because the word needs to know.”