By Ian Teoh, E23 Reporter

The annual Citizen Jane film festival was held Nov. 3-6, 2016 at various locations around downtown Columbia, Mo. and Stephens College. Dedicated to the celebration of independent film directed by women, Citizen Jane is a growing affair, involving not just numerous short films, documentaries and narratives, but also panels and a number of workshops (afternoon film school) for people to participate in.

In the film “Nakom”, directed by Kelly Daniela Norris and T.W. Pittman, promising medical school student Iddrisu (Jacob Ayanaba) is called back to his rural African village after the sudden death of his father. Leaving behind his studies, love and modernity, he finds himself grappling with the weight of the family who sacrificed much to give him a chance to leave.

This happened to be one of the more striking films I watched this weekend, and I caught it by accident after an error on the film festival schedule. (Several people scrambled for the exit doors of Warehouse Theater as the movie was announced, looking for the screening of Girl Asleep)

Growing up in Southeast Asia, the opening of “Nakom” with it’s bustling scene of a developing nation that evoked in me a sense of familiarity. Honking drivers and loud people jostling for aural and physical space in all too crowded streets characterized the Ghanaian town that Iddrisu found himself at college at. Foreign in many ways to the American experience, yet another world away from the quietness of the village and the unmoving mud huts of Nakom.

The film captures without condescending the simple way of the Kusasi farmers, and it makes us understand the reasons why Iddrisu, who cannot wait to leave upon his first return, finds himself surrendering once again to the life he knew before the city. That is no mean feat. From pettiness to antiquated gender roles and simple plain ignorance, it is easy to heap scorn on the actions of the villagers, however the filmmaker takes great care and succeeds in portraying the joy and beauty that is to be found in the quiet, flawed, struggling paradise.

Although the film centers around Iddrisu’s existential struggle between duty and ambition, it rarely feels indulgent, the events never feel contrived and the viewers get a true glimpse at his difficult choice, torn between the old world and the new.  “Nakom” is a truly emotional portrayal of an easily forgotten way of living.

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