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As we continue to review films churned out by Intwasa, this week we review The Hen that Came Home to Roost which was produced by Early Entertainment and supported by Culture Fund. The film is a story about Grace, who comes back home after being gone for years to confront her mother and uncle about her childhood trauma and how it is now being extended on to her niece as well. There a couple of themes that jumped out at me and I’m excited to share them with you. Please note that this is a personal review and I’m open to hearing your thoughts in the comment section.
The stereotype of how black women are too angry fails to account for what made them so angry in the first place. We live in a country where so much trauma is taking place but the resources to alleviate or address it are scarce or non-existent. I would love to see the statistics of how many rape survivors received counselling after their ordeal to the point of not suffering from PTSD and leading a normal life.
Ephesians 6:2 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
The uncle and the mother try and drive the point home about respecting your elders and this is based on that bible verse that African parents thoroughly abuse. But when that verse is read in it’s entirety, we get the premise of this film. Grace was violated and instead of an apology or some form of appeasement, she was met with gas-lighting and excuses. When she got to the point of wrath, she did what she had to. I don’t blame her. The uncle had an excuse for raping her and he acknowledges that he was misled, but what was his reason for raping the niece?
— #Intwasa21 (@intwasa) September 30, 2021
So many criminal cases go unreported. There’s plenty of reasons for this. Grace felt unsafe in her home and unprotected by her mother. How was she to trust a few whole judicial system that is flawed and biased towards men? Have you ever experienced the so called Victims Friendly Unit at the police station? The only thing friendly about it is that they will make jokes about your situation. I’m not condoning anyone taking the law into their own hands but I totally understand why they feel like they didn’t have another choice. The uncle was never going to stop, he had to be stopped. Grace did that!
We’ve already covered the whole tripe about respecting your elders so let’s move on to why the uncle claims to have raped Grace. At the peak of the HIV phobia, people went to traditional healers to find alternative medicine. One of the remedies recommended to them was to have sex with a virgin in order to offload the virus and be healed. This does not work. It never has and it never will and yet people will still try it.
The niece tells Grace that she was told not to speak about the sexual abuse because kuyazila which means it’s taboo. The concept of things being taboo is used to cover up too many crimes within the family structure. Do you know what’s actually taboo? Incest! It’s a crime and the uncle deserved to go away for a long time for it. Death was too easy a way out, he deserved to experience the no-star Zimbabwean prisons.
When girls get pregnant outside the confines of marriage, the parents are usually more ashamed than angry. That perceived shame of being a bad parent or the laughing stock of the neighbourhood is their biggest downfall. I want to be so bold as to say, so many wedding debts are because children wanted to feed their parents’ egos. Girls are forced to deal with unplanned pregnancies and unforeseen changes alone because the parents are self-absorbed. In the film, the mother was too ashamed to address her daughter being raped. She was more worried about her brother, the rapist than her daughter, the victim. ‘Abantu bazothini‘ syndrome will wipe out our parents to extinction one of these days.
The film was riddled with talking points for dialogue which can effect behavioural change. I pray for all the women who watched it and could relate to it. It was definitely a trigger. Communities need more support systems, not just in the homes but from the judicial system as well. Everyone deserves to feel safe and supported when they are going through a hard time. The uncle, dare I say it, also needed counselling to better cope with his fears about being HIV positive.
Early Entertainment did a good job pulling this off. The director showcased sheer creativity by telling a tired story in a fresh way. Elliot has a thing for voices in the head. The film was very Kanye West’s ‘Flashing Lights.’ If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it below.