By Prisca Sam-Duru

The much-dreaded Sickle Cell Anaemia is the main trust of the sophisticated Nollywood movie, ‘Strain’, now showing on Netflix.

Exploring the themes of love, care, understanding and a host of other positives that serve as antidotes to life threatening challenges, ‘Strain’ a feature family film, exposes the devastating effect of the sickle cell disease. It is a condition no one should even wish for an enemy.

‘Strain’ which won the Best International Film at Urban Film Festival, Miami Florida in 2020, captures vividly, the heart-wrenching condition of the Sickle Cell Anaemia’s sufferer alongside its toll on the finance and state of mind of the caregivers.

Produced by Oluwatoyin Adewumi (also the Executive producer), and Benjamin Abejide Adeniran, the film directed by Uduak-Obong Patrick is co-written by Donald Tombia, Oluwatoyin Adewumi and Eze Ekpo.

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The close to 2-hour emotive creative work inspired by real-life events, parades an array of screen bigwigs: Alex Usifo, Gloria Anozie-Young and Bimbo Akintola. It also features Okey Uzoeshi alongside Angel Onyi Unigwe, Nifemi Lawal, Aproko Doctor, Enkay Ogboruche and introducing Shushu Abubakar.

 ‘Strain’ satisfies viewers’ yearnings for authentic and high-quality films while at the same time, vehemently discouraging intending couples with Genotypes AS, from continuing with their relationship.

The narrative revolves around a little boy, Ekene whose once buoyant family struggles to eke out a living; no thanks to his Sickle Cell disease. The Ezeji’s are caught in the web of pain, trauma as well as confusion and near mental dislocation especially on the mother of the house, Yemi Ezeji (Shushu Abubakar) who like never before, struggles to maintain a balance between work and family due to the impact of her son’s ill health.

Owing to a report that says about “150,000 children are still being born with the sickle cell disease annually in Nigeria”, the timing of the film is quite apt and by far, a most commendable effort to project more information on the subject through storytelling; a platform people are known to identify easily with.  ‘Strain’ therefore, beams light on the priority importance of more aggressive campaign on prevention, management and cure of the disease.

Little wonder the masterpiece was also adjudged Best Screenplay at The African Film Festival (TAFF), 2021.

Nnamdi Ezeji’s (Okey Uzoeshi) family is in celebration mood. And as its typical with children, his two children- Ebere and Ekene are all cut out for massive fun at a nature’s park. But that desire is punctuated with the sudden collapse of 6-year-old Ekene. He is rushed to the hospital and the doctor breaks the most unbelievable news- Ekene has the Sickle Cell Disease.

Confusion sets in as Mr & Mrs Ezeji who have always believed that only one of them is a carrier of the sickle cell gene, wonder how correct the doctor is.

The family strives to adjust to their sudden reality which is at this juncture, stretching their ability to endure as Ekene’s condition begins to take a depressing toll on both their relationship and finance. For Ekene to live, a bone marrow transplant will have to be performed. Now faced with a procedure that endangers their two children in addition to a depleted finance, Nnamdi Ezeji’s family is once again, back at a dangerous cross road.

Exceptionally informative storyline and, beautiful production spiced with brilliant cast, makes ‘Strain’ a must watch for everyone. Quite commendable is the doctor’s nerve-calming mien which exudes so much confidence that reassures viewers that the poor boy will triumph over his health challenge.

A terrific goose-pimple moment which comes when Somto’s mum turns down Ekene’s Mum’s request to allow Somto to play with Ekene because the young lad (Somto) believes Ekene will die, having witnessed one of his usual attacks in school, is heart breaking. Another heart-shredding portion in ‘Strain’ is where Nnamdi and his wife are engaged in a heated argument while their children listen. Imagine stumbling upon a fight everyone believes your condition stirred up; that’s Ekene’s dilemma- a typical case of the victim being labelled the culprit. And that decks the hardest blow on the boy’s already devastated health condition.

Juxtaposing the amount of information on Sickle Cell Anaemia and the increasing number of children being born with the disease, perhaps, it’s high time sufferers sued their parents for bringing them into a world of agony; if that will solve the problem.

A masterpiece of Verte View, ‘Strain’ upholds love as ideal for surmounting any dire circumstances and would remain a reference production for future conversations on the Sickle Cell Disease.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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