After I watched this movie side by side with the director on YouTube in Accra Ghana, I got angry. Not at the film but at the truth the film revealed about society concerning teenage pregnancy. I wondered why everyone surrounding the main character, Tawah (Rebecca Hinneh) did not see how they owed some amount of responsibility to her well-being as a teenager. It is said that it takes a whole community to raise up a child but it seems that Africa has lost its communal way of living.
The movie starts with a beautiful Monday morning drone shot-like view of a typical African setting. Not too developed and not underdeveloped too: the location is a place somewhere in between. A national flag being hoisted at a high school assembly reveals that the location is Liberia.
The title of Luther N. Mafalleh‘s fiction did little to immediately expose me to the theme: Teenage pregnancy. I love that the title does not immediately give away what one should expect in the movie, it just hits you with its best shot!
How and where the hand is laid when the pledge of Liberia is recited by Voinjama Free Pentecostal Mission High School teens at an assembly is quite different than that of where I’ve always found myself in, Ghana! Our hands are always slightly farther away from our chest towards the left part of our body.
I have had issues of not being able to clearly hear what the Liberians I’ve ever come into contact with say: From my chemistry teacher to room mate and others. I always had to make the extra effort to pay extreme attention to whatever they said but I usually end up asking them to repeat what they say for a number of times so I am totally surprised that in this movie I can clearly hear every word (except “Uncle Jonathan” which i heard as “Uncle jo-na-thor” until I read the names of cast at the end of the film) though Liberian accent is not completely lost in their pronunciation.
Tawah is an intelligent young high school student who has dreams of becoming a lawyer to advocate for the rights of girls in her country but falls victim to teenage pregnancy, playing a major hindrance to achieving her dream.
The first people Tawah shows appreciation to when she was recognized for her academic performance in school and awarded a scholarship are her parents Mr. Fallah and Ma.Finda (Mr. Alfred S. Barnabas and Maitta T. Kromah). Making it quite surprising that her parents gave up on her when she needed them the most regardless of the mistakes she had made.
That low angle shot at when her boyfriend’s father, Mr. Mulbah ( Torkpa M. Tamue) reacts to his son’s act of impregnating Tawah is great but not as great as he doing nothing to ensure that his son takes up some level of responsibility for his action. All he does is show his disappointment at his son’s actions. He could have charged his son, Koiwu (Chris Jallah) to care for his child after delivery and for the mother while she carried his child. He should have told his son the consequences of his actions on the life of Tawah and how he could make the situation better.
Her mother’s close care for her during time of pregnancy revealed that she still cared but maybe not enough to advise her once again to practice a safe sexual lifestyle.
Even though she wasn’t sacked or thrown out of her fathers house she was as good as being in that situation as father only provided accommodation and food for her daughter and not for his grand child because apparently he knows that the baby has a father, a father he did nothing to bring him to the baring of the responsibility of his grandchild.
After parents find out the extent to which uncle Jonathan was willing to spend on her that they weren’t, it didn’t caution them to protect their daughter: they instead pushed her from fry pan to fire. She also confessed that she didn’t want to live in her parents house anymore.
Why didn’t her parents see where they went wrong with the upbringing of their daughter? Did they make an effort to find out who was responsible and should share responsibility of the unborn child?
Why didn’t the father notice that if he fails to continue providing for her, she’d go back to her old ways to fend for herself?
When her mother realized the signs of Uncle Jonathan getting too close and him being too old enough to be her father and even far older than her daughter, why didn’t she do anything? And in an attempt to show gratitude to the provisions her parents failed to make for her, she decided to accept his proposal, “I will just accept because I owe him a lot.” Her parents could have easily given her another choice.
According to the film, some schools in Liberia conduct regular pregnancy tests for female students. I find it sad that the school nurse (Theresa K. Nyumah) in that of Tawah‘s school did nothing to help these girls whose test results come out positive. She lies to the school nurse in tears that she knows not who impregnated her. Nurse provided No counseling, no family planning tips, just a face that shows that she is disappointed in Tawah as she hands to her the letter of suspension. I believe that is not all she had been assigned to do. But even if she hadn’t been assigned to provide extra care for girls who fall victim, the human and nurse in her should prompt her to provide the most relevant help at that time: professional reproductive health advice. This would have gone a long way to help her plan for her life after delivery.
Why didn’t the school put measures in place so that in cases where girls are impregnated by boys in the same school they should face some punishment and responsibility. It’s for fair for the girl to be suspended from school while the man responsible for it stays in the same school. Did it not take both of them to have sex and result in that pregnancy? Why then was only the female punished?
She was so determined to achieve her dream of becoming lawyer so much that when her dad, Mr. Fallah mentions her being a president she still opts to be a lawyer, “who will advocate for women’s rights“. Even when her second boyfriend, uncle Jonathan (Anthony A. Arms) says she could become the first female senator of Lofa, she still holds on to her dreams of being a lawyer. That determination unfortunately was not strong enough to say no to sex.
Her best friend, Fatu (Jenneh K. Ngombu) warns Tawah of her association with the first boyfriend, Koiwu but assures her that nothing can happen between them, “I cannot love that guy“.
An intimate touch with her lover under her parents permission of going out to do an assignment, sneaking back home late and the contrasting “Holy Virgin Mary” reaction she gives when school nurse reveals that one girl in her class is pregnant and needs to go home is rather a sudden turn of events.
When she visits school and sees her boyfriend still in school she admits to herself that she made a mistake which would not have happened, “if only I had listen to advice“.
When her best friend remarks after she put to birth that, “Tawah, the girls’ right advocate is now a baby mama, the world is really going to an end” the father, Koiwu sighs a short laughter. He says nothing to ensure Tawah, mother of his son that he is going to be there for both of them.
Tawah in response to Uncle Jonathan’s question about the where about of the her daughter’s father, she explains that he came to see the baby only once and said it was not his business when her mother reported to him that their child was sick.
The hospital nurse did not provide her with necessary information when she confessed that she didn’t have enough money for her child’s medical bills, and this did not strike her attention to engage her based on the fact that she couldn’t afford to take care of her child as a teenager. Claiming she (nurse) had other things to do. Perhaps some family planning tips to ensure that she doesn’t have another child until she is married and financially ready to have one.
The land lady of the house she lived in with Uncle Jonathan before he abandoned her said, “why do you want to live in my house for free when I know your parents can close their eyes and even pay that money” proving that Tawah‘s parents were financially capable of giving her all the financial help she got from Uncle Jonathan. I believe that it is never late until it is too late. Even at that point, a piece of friendly advice from another woman to another premature one could have done Tawah a lot of good even if she had already made some realization at that point of her life for the sake of emphasis.
She even showed her surprise as to how the landlady told her that at her age she could leave her father’s house and live with her boyfriend.
The woman whom Tawah did a laundry service for could have also offered some advice since she also admitted that she had been slow in working ever since she got pregnant. Instead, she paid her less than the job she did and let her leave.
Men like Uncle Jonathan in our communities are a huge threat to the existence of teenage females in our communities. They should be brought to the law, dealt with in the communities. He had a wife and kids for crying out loud, would he be happy to see her kids been treated like how he took advantage of Tawah? It shouldn’t be just teenagers who should be educated on the issue, parents, community members and opinion leaders should also be involved in the sensitization process
Why I like the movie
My favourite scene is the part where she is seen doing lot’s of house chores with no dialogue or soliloquy. She said a lot with nothing; she communicated without speaking. I also like the scene where she got into labour and her sister acted as knowing absolutely nothing about what’s happening to her.
The movie had a good way of representing the ambulance service of Liberia as reliable when her mother called for their help.
I like how Uncle Jonathan’s financial status was represented: rents a nice apartment and is seen using a car and at another time using a motorcycle.
He didn’t look like an old man, he looked older man and the reason why I liked the age range he represented is that, it isn’t only the old men (in their 60s and 70s sometimes known as sugar daddies or Alhajis) who indulge in such irresponsible acts. So in this movie, there’s a teen boyfriend and an older one who makes the life of the victim even worse.
The make up (Leela Wymon) was natural and complementary to every scene. I even wondered if there was a make up artiste at some point in the movie. She did a great job. It was so natural it was almost unnoticeable. Finally, I get to see a movie where one doesn’t shower or sleep with visible make up on.
I can’t forget the appropriate costumes (Elijah L. Mulbah) that accompanied each character in each scene. Her braids were always neatly kept, it looked new through out the whole movie. Even her pregnancy had a navel like real tummies or pregnancies do. There was no knot at the back of her waist like I’d seen in other movies where a cast was pregnant.
I also liked the scene where Tawah returns to school after she moves in with Uncle Jonathan which indicate that some men will do just anything to get you.
Also her going back to school but not in the same blue and white uniform she used to attend school with shows that she probably went to another school to avoid any further embarrassment she was likely to face after getting pregnant.
I also like the fact that before she gets pregnant, the movie just shows us the relationship that exist between Tawah and koiwu and not another episode of 50 shades of gray.
She admits that she made mistakes and made sure that the message of the consequences she has to face was made clear to other girls in her neighborhood. She apologizes for failing God and her parents, friends and all other girls, when they instead failed her [except God by the way, because He never fails]!
I don’t like stories (books/films) that leaves the audience with so many questions unanswered. Its makes me unsatisfied with the information I’ve received and makes the story incomplete. But this is different, these unanswered questions represents the unresolved problems of our society.
The movie tells us that we each have a role to play in the lives of others.
My love for this movie doesn’t mean I have no critiques, but I will admit that my critiques are extremely peanut and slightly inconsiderable.
I feel the editor could have given us a few more seconds to watch the beauty of the drone-shot-like view of a Liberia morning before allowing the filmmaker and movie title interrupt that shot.
At the end of the film, the names of all extras weren’t available such as that of the funeral extra’s because though their role might not be as important at the actors they help to portray the idea that a scene is filled with. It however doesn’t spoil the movie.
Anyway I absolutely enjoyed ‘ Think Twice ’ and would recommend it for everyone.
When you do get to watch Luther N. Mafalleh’s Think Twice , I hope you see the same beauty that I saw and the same provocation that I felt. Most importantly its my biggest hope that you get inspired and angry enough to do your best to perform the responsibility that you owe to others around you and never forget to cause change in the environment where one finds him or herself in.
Think Twice , a short narrative film by Luther N. Mafalleh and Augustine Gbasee Kessellie was produced in 2019 during an independent workshop in Liberia as a part of “All on Board“ – a project by WELTFILME.org, Ghana Y.M.C.A, Sierra Leone Adult Education Association National Adult Education Association of Liberia – NAEAL and Xchange Perspectives . With financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Brot für die Welt.
You can find Think Twice on the YouTube channel: http://www.weltfilme.org . Unfortunately it is not available for download for offline viewing. It’s a short film and you can watch it in a sitting. You can subscribe to weltfilme.org to more film that address societal problems.
Biography of Director- Luther N. Mafalleh
Luther N. Mafalleh holds a Master’s degree in regional planning from the University of Liberia on Capitol Hill in Monrovia. He is a filmmaker, author and motivational speaker. [email protected]
Other Films By The Filmmaker Includes: Accra Flowers, Rescue Mission and Closing the Gap: Women’s Political Participation in Liberia.
The Photographer of Thoughts
Fb: Mercy Aba Blankson
Twitter: @aba radical
IG: Aba Radical
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