Even as women in the twenty-first century, we are not given much choice. We are restricted from making free decisions. The most shocking part is that even if a woman is sexually assaulted or raped, she is the one who is hidden and is asked to live a different life than her usual. There is no justification as to why society discriminates against women at every chance it gets. However, there are scattered pieces of the puzzle that, when placed together, will give us an idea about this unfortunate discrimination. Society has wrapped women around a myth: women are born to serve men in any form, be a support system for the father, be a good wife for her husband, and bear children. So, in a nutshell, the life of a woman is all about serving the wills and whims of men. Along with this, she is never supposed to voice her opinion; she must always put others’ needs before her (emotional, physical, even spiritual) and silently absorb everything that comes her way. Thus, the second episode of Netflix’s new series in partnership with UNESCO, “African Folktales Reimagined,” is sarcasm on its own. The second episode is titled “Halima’s Choice,” which taunts the lack of choices for women.
Toxic Gender Roles In A Futuristic Society
As the story begins, it takes us to a world after “The Great Exodus,” where ninety-nine percent of Earth’s inhabitants mass migrated into the virtual world of Napata. Those who stayed back did not trust artificial intelligence. So, if we categorize this lot by Everett Rogers’s popular theory of diffusion of innovation, they would be laggards. This group of people lived in a small village called Abuja. Soon we are introduced to the protagonist, Halima, who is in conversation with her mother about Napata. Her mother instantly rebuked her for having thoughts about a technologically advanced world. She fairly warns her not to bother Danladi (Halima’s soon-to-be husband) with such thoughts.
We are introduced to the village head, a highly religious person, and Halima’s father. In his prayer meetings, he tells his followers that those who have left for Napata are fools to think that God will not punish them for their misdeeds. He also says that they have to be careful that no one in the community falls victim to machine worship and takes refuge in artificial intelligence. As Halima walked away from her settlement towards the caves, she saw a man unconscious.
As she approaches him, Halima finds that he has access to artificial intelligence. She takes away the device from him. The man opened his eyes for a brief moment and fell unconscious again. Halima brings her father and the other villagers to his rescue. Here, it felt like Hamila removed the device on purpose, as the moment Halima’s father and the villagers appeared, they thoroughly searched to see if he had been compromised by artificial intelligence. Then they gave him water to drink, and the village head asked him to reveal his identity.
The man said he belonged to a community in Old Kogi. He said that the community was formed by people from several different places. They were united by their mutual hatred for the Napata community. But as time passed, the community experienced food shortages and failed to survive. Thus, those who were left converted themselves to the Napata community. They believed it was the “heaven” that the almighty had created for them. The head of the village mocked this remark and let the man in, believing he shared a similar ideology.
In the following scene, we see Hamila’s would-be husband and another man at her home gifting her a wedding dress. Hamila was not happy about it. The man declares that she will be married this Friday. Next, we see Hamila and her mother in the kitchen, where Hamila is chopping spinach for the soup. Her mother berates her for being slow. Hamila answers her mother back, asking if her mother is worried that she will burn soup at her husband’s place as well. Her mother was angry at her for being sarcastic but held her close, and soon Hamila broke down in tears.
An Escape Route
Hamila kept the stranger’s secret, and she secretly had a soft spot for him. The man was aware that Hamila was keeping his secret. But the duo managed to secretly meet inside the caves. It was inside the cave that Hamila, for the first time, tasted the flavor of an alternate reality by allowing the device to take control of her body.
In the alternative world, she saw the vibrancy of nature: bright flowers, birds chirping, and children playing.
The man was guiding her in every step. He kept telling her that the world she was in then was based on her imagination and experiences. Soon, Hamila visits her darkest fears. Being a mother and starting a family scared her. What plagued her even more was the constant cheering of the people around her for finally fulfilling her social obligation. Hamila was scared and took the device off and asked the man not to show her such unpleasant things. The man said it was all her imagination that came alive, and only she could change them. He leaves the gadget with Hamila, and the duo returns to their settlement.
Betrayal, Pani, And Death
The following night, Hamila packed her bag and planned to escape the settlement and leave with the stranger she saved. She wakes him up, and as they walk past the village border, the man stops Hamila. He said that he would not be able to leave with Hamila. She pleaded with the man to come along, as she would not be able to face what was out there on her own. She also confessed that she did not want to marry the old man, Danladi. The man finally unveiled his true identity. He was an AI which came to the village to gather information to strengthen Napata’s experience. Hamila felt betrayed and cheated on.
Soon, there were voices of villagers gathering. Hamila took refuge in the nearby bushes. The man was caught by the villagers. Hamila’s father questioned him about his daughter, and soon the villagers discovered the chip behind his head, which he had shown Hamila earlier to disclose his identity. The men were furious and started beating him up. Hamila, unable to see her friend in pain, came out of the bushes. Her father asked her what the man intended to do with her and whether she would come along with him willingly. To this, Hamila expressed her discontentment about marrying the man her father had chosen for her. Infuriated by her daughter’s words, Hamila’s father chops off the man’s head with a sword.
Unfortunately, after this whole shenanigan, Hamila was married to Danladi. Before her marriage, her mother handed her the device and told her she was never good at keeping secrets. Hamila was angry and told her mother to share her secret with her father, her husband, or anyone who was entitled to punish her now. But her mother said she could not break the device, as she knew that would hurt Hamila the most. As she left, we saw her husband shaking hands with the village men. He was excited to consummate his marriage, but as soon as he entered his room, he could not find Hamila.
Episode 2: Ending
Hamila went to the cave and plugged the device in. She was in her beautiful land with the stranger she once trusted and probably felt a connection with. She knew it was not real, no matter how many times the man told her to believe the stranger she once trusted and probably felt a connection with. She knew it was not real, no matter how many times the man told her to believe it. She woke up in the cave, unplugged the device, and began walking back. But did she go back to the village? The director Korede Azeez leaves us no concrete answer.
Her choice now becomes the choice of the audience. The director wanted the audience to make their choice her choice, for in a way, women are never given choices. The film has so many dark symbols that they blow the minds of the audience. From a dominating religious father to a laggard society, being blinded by new hopes and being fooled, and finally, the pain of being a woman in a highly patriarchal society. The film paints a clear picture: unless people change their mindset, no futuristic society can eradicate evil discrimination.
Director Korede Azeez masterfully crafted “Hamila’s Choice.” It is not new information that even today, women are not given a choice. The male-dominated society feels it is their duty and their pride to decide what women must or mustn’t do. It clearly portrays the hypocrisy of society. People are afraid of change and thus come up with weird explanations about why they should not be a part of it. However, they are evil enough not to let others choose the unknown path as well. In the name of religion, society belittles advanced scientific achievements. Also, they unapologetically uphold patriarchy. Society is plagued by the malign practice of gender roles. In the film, we see women mostly doing the kitchen and household work or serving food to the farmers. We see the mother understanding the pain that is injected into her daughter by marrying her off to an old man; she remains silent. Moreover, any other man apart from the one that has been chosen by a girl’s father is a threat to the girl and society. And finally, keeping the film open-ended, the director established that women’s choice is a myth that does not exist. Setting the story in a futuristic setting is yet another brilliant stroke from the director. It is a satire of how the evils of society begin with those who do not want to change themselves.