The third episode of the Netflix series in partnership with UNESCO, “African Folktales Reimagined,” is a textbook example of a folktale blended in a futuristic society. The episode is titled “Anyango and the Ogre” and is directed by Voline Oguto. It unleashes the horrors of modern society. Since time immemorial, we have known that violence in any form was mostly directed at women. It is a forlorn affair, yet very common. The rate of violence against women, especially in marital relationships, is far worse than any other form of violence. It is a pertinent question to ask: why does a man raise his hand on women? The answer is both terrifying and very true. Society has normalized treating women like second-class citizens. The patriarchy has taught men that being disrespectful to women is not wrong because they are dependent on men.
Society had deliberately put women in positions where they could not even access their fundamental rights. Many countries across the globe throughout history gained their freedom from imperialism and colonialism. Unfortunately, women in the modern world still do not have access to the complete freedom they are entitled to. Women were raised as commodities to satisfy men. This dreadful practice has, over the ages, made women fall prey to toxic masculinity.
How To Tell A Tale
As the film opens, we see an attractive tribal woman walking into the forest, and the narrator introduces her as Anyango. Anyango is a widow and lonely, and she is jealous of her sisters, for they are young, and suitors are pursuing them in plenty. But Anyango had three children and feared that no one would ever marry her again. Then one day, a handsome suitor visits the village, but not for Anyango’s sisters.
Soon, we are introduced to the narrator, a young boy who is reading fables to his two younger siblings in the backseat of the car. He modulated his voice for better narration and continued reading the story. Their mother, who was driving the car, was impressed by how her eldest son was keeping his younger siblings engaged in the journey. The eldest son continued the story: the man who came to the village asked Anyango to marry her and said that he would take care of the children too. Soon, his flow of narration breaks as their cars suddenly halts. When they looked around, they saw pale-looking women in shabby attire walking past their bright blue car and staring at them. The children were a bit taken aback. But their mother drove past those women.
Zones Of Happiness
As the car moves, we hear the electronic voice of a woman commenting on how the situation in the Grey Zone is getting worse and how the human rights activists are actively fighting for single women’s rights to be included in the Blue Zone. But the government has a firm stance and has allowed women below thirty to find a match in the Blue Zone. The mother drives the car as she witnesses many women from the gray zone trying to get into the blue zone. To enter the Blue Zone, the mother had to use the scanner to recognize her as a legitimate inhabitant of the zone. As the scanning process was ongoing, the children overlooked how women from the street were turning over dustbins to find food.
The Blue Zone: Fairytale Or Nightmare?
As the car enters the blue zone, we see happy couples romancing and waving at their fellow citizens. Happy families were walking by, and everyone was dressed in bright blue. The mother parks the car in their garage. But before stepping down, the mother wanted to fix a bruise on her face with makeup. The Blue Zone now appears to be a fool’s paradise. The happiness and peace that are portrayed seem like a utopian dream.
The true reality soon unfolds. We are introduced to the father, who is playing with the kids. He was teaching the children to throw the ball through the basket. The little girl failed. The father asked her to keep trying. After a couple of times, the young girl wanted to give up. But the father was obsessed and asked her to keep trying. As she refused, the look on his face changed.
The mother intervened and asked the kids to wash their hands and sit down for dinner. But the father refused. Ignoring the orders of the father, the mother sends the kids away. The father walks up to the mother and pins her to the wall by her throat. The mother tries to free herself as the kids watch the brutality of the father. The eldest son threw a plastic bowl at the man, and he turned towards them, freeing the woman.
The mother asks the kids to run away. As they do, the father catches the shirt of the eldest boy. The mother, with all her force, held the father back, and the kids escaped into their room and locked it. The children could hear the horrific noises of their father beating their mother. To divert his two young siblings, the eldest boy began to read the fable again.
Fable Or Reality?
According to the story, Anyango found out that the handsome man she married was not a man but an Ogre. The Ogre wanted to slowly kill the four. As soon as Anyango understood this, she left her children in the hut and went out to kill the Ogre. Before leaving, she taught a song to her children so that they would not open the door to the Ogre. Soon the Ogre comes and demands the children open the door. The children refused, and the Ogre began singing the song that Anyango had taught the children. Failing to understand the trap, the young children opened the door, even though the eldest tried to prevent them. The Ogre comes in and carries the children away.
Similarly, the father, after beating the mother almost unconscious, knocked on the door of the children’s room. He kept saying that he was no longer angry, but the children were scared. They hide in their bathroom as the father breaks the door and enters. He carries the young children out, and the eldest son tries to stop her. The father then beats the eldest son with his belt, and the son begs him to stop. For a moment, the father saw his reflection on the windowsill and paused. We get to see scars all over the father’s body, suggesting that he, too, has been through similar trauma and harassment. As the mother regains consciousness and walks over to the boy, he pleads with her to leave the man and go away. The mother promises to take them away the next morning.
Episode 3: Ending
The next morning, the mother cooked breakfast like usual, and the father was sitting at the table waiting. There was no discomfort in the room, even after what happened the previous night. The eldest son, Otis, walks into the room. He was surprised to see how calm his mother was and how she and her father were pretending that everything was normal. The father asked Otis to join him for breakfast, and he refused. He began reminding his mother about her promise. The father got angry and stood up, turning towards Otis, and was about to smack him when the mother pulled him behind. As the father turned toward the mother, Otis pushed him down. The father hit his head on the corner of a table and fell unconscious. He began bleeding from his ears and forehead.
The mother panicked and wanted to take him to the hospital. Otis took away her phone and pleaded with his mother to leave the man behind and go away. The mother tried to convince Otis that they needed the father to support them. But Otis was adamant. Finally, the mother leaves the Blue Zone and takes the kids away to the Grey Zone, where all single mothers stay. The mother was not sure if the children would fit in, and she had a worried look on her face. But the children finally found happiness and instantly began playing with kids their own age.
The film brilliantly uses the tale of Anyango and the Ogre and incorporates it into a futuristic society. The class division into Blue and Grey Zones is highly commendable. It is a common notion that people from the lower strata of society have succumbed to age-old beliefs and traditions. Thus, their struggles are looked down upon. Putting the perspective of single mothers in the gray zone defines how society perceives single mothers. Society looks down upon single mothers, and they are constantly criticized. Human rights activists fight for single mothers’ rights, but the government and society turn a blind eye to them. Simultaneously, the so-called elite society is full of flaws. Also, in that elite society, women are not secure. They are constantly criticized and treated as second-class citizens. They are beaten, tormented, and forced to stick to the flawed gender roles that society has dictated for them. But, all these are concealed brilliantly under luxury.
At the same time, the film talks about toxic masculinity and how it transcends generations. The father, who in his early years was a victim of the wrath of this father, instead of changing the toxic cycle, walks down the path of violence. This also talks about parenting flaws. Moreover, the mother, who probably was accustomed to a similar behavioral pattern as the father, considered it natural. To this day, many women remain silent about their husbands’ violent behaviors as the husbands are the breadwinners of the family. The film brilliantly portrays that patriarchy doesn’t stand alone on the shoulders of men but of women too, who fail to voice their opinion (or maybe don’t know how to voice an opinion).