The film adaptation of Sefi Atta’s second novel, Swallow, is set for release on October 1, 2021, on Netflix. Swallow is the first of the streaming service’s three-film deal with acclaimed Nigerian filmmaker Kunle Afolayan. All set in Nigeria, the two others are still unnamed and in different stages of production.
In the 2010 novel, Tolani Ajao is a young bank secretary who, persuaded by her friend, Rose, is caught up in the drug trafficking wave in 1980s Lagos.
Ijeoma Grace Agu will star as Rose, Deyemi Okanlanwon as Sanwo, Eniola Badmus as Mrs. Durojaiye, Chioma Akpotha as Mama Chidi, Kevin Ikeduba as OC, Offiong Anthony Edet as Johnny, and veteran Olusegun Remi as Mr. Salako. It is the Nigerian singer Niyola, in her film debut, plays the lead Tolani.
Swallow is Kunle Afolayan’s first book adaptation. He co-wrote the screenplay with Atta. “I am thankful to him for the opportunity to earn my first screenwriting credit,” she shared on a Facebook post.
A synopsis of the book reads:
It is the mid-1980s in Lagos, Nigeria, and the government’s War against Indiscipline is in full operation. Amid poverty and tight rules and regulations, women especially must sacrifice dignity and safety in order to find work and peace. Tolani Ajao is a secretary working at Federal Community Bank.
A succession of unfortunate events leads Tolani’s roommate and volatile friend Rose to persuade her to consider drug trafficking as an alternative means of making a living.
Tolani’s struggle with temptation forces her to reconsider her morality and that of her mother, Arike; Swallow weaves the stories of the two women intricately together in a vivid, unforgettable portrayal of Tolani’s turbulent journey of self-discovery.”
Atta’s debut novel Everything Good Will Come (2005), won her the 2006 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature. She received the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa in 2009. She is the author of A Bit of Difference (2013) and The Bead Collector (2019). She has further published a story collection, News from Home (2010); a children’s book, Drama Queen (2018); and a collection of plays, Sefi Atta: Selected Plays (2019). In 2010, she was a judge for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Swallow is her second novel.
Netflix released a trailer: