The wondrously lensed The Supreme Price (2014) is a documentary of particular note. It takes on the threads of the construction of the family unit, the power of the African woman and wife, and the pressures of national history as personal heritage. Director Joanna Lipper provides a crucial window into the lives of politicised women and one woman in particular: the daughter of the former democratically elected Nigerian president M.K.O. Abiola and Kudirat Abiola, Hafsat Abiola. This is a perfectly wrought documentary, teased out delicately and respectfully but also completely. It will challenge viewers’ but also serve as a call to action, no matter what cause it may be.
The films entwines two storylines (two histories really), a thing not done accidentally. Nigeria’s fight for freedom from military dictatorships was and is embedded in Hafsat Abiola’s very being for most of her life. Her parents worked towards the political betterment of their native land, hoping that with democracy, the chances to fix other social and economic problems would also appear. After Abiola was elected by popular vote, a coup sought to eradicate those efforts, putting his family in constant harm’s way. Abiola spoke out against those who seized power, declaring his right to lead. His wife, Kudirat, became the figurehead of a democratic movement, touring Nigeria and speaking truth to power. Both died under suspicious circumstances and left their legacy to their daughter, Hafsat, who currently holds a cabinet position and fights not only for the rights of Nigerian women but also for the autonomy of the Nigerian populace.
While the fraught history of Nigeria – from its reception of independence in 1960 to present day – is covered quite thoroughly through talking heads and news footage (a nicely comprehensive touch for those uninitiated), this film really finds its voice through the time it spends with Hafsat. The role of Nigerian women is depicted carefully here; Lipper respectfully but powerfully depicts that the social and political mode most preferred for a Nigerian woman and wife is silent. Hafsat’s role then as a political activist and the wife of an Englishman by equal measures destroys and positively revises this construct. Scenes of Hafsat working with other Nigerian woman (women who no longer want to be silent) at her foundation and Hafsat’s own talking head interviews of her remembrances of her mother ring out most loudly.
A sort of generational repositioning through political power comes through clearly. This is also what proves the film’s emotional core. Hafsat’s strength to continue in the face of great loss as well as her championing of her mother’s work balance in pathos what the exhaustive exploration of Nigerian history provides in logos. Ultimately, The Supreme Price is a near perfect documentary. Meaty in its matter, deftly weaving together a number of complex issues that are distilled into perfectly digestible bites, this documentary is necessary viewing. It champions the politicisation of the people, rather than the few in power, asking what is the price (or rather, sacrifice) that must be made for true independence.
Allie Gemmill | @alliegem