To mark the 60th anniversary of Nigerian independence, Eyimofe (This Is My Desire), directed by Arie and Chuko Esiri, will make its UK premiere at the BFI’s 64th London Film Festival on 11 October.
A moving and thought-provoking contribution to the New Wave of Nigerian cinema, Eyimofe is the twin brothers’ first feature film. Funded entirely in Nigeria, and with a predominantly Nigerian cast and crew, it explores migration through a fresh lens. The film will feature in the “Journey” strand of this year’s scaled-down London Film Festival, one of only 50 screenings.
Split into chapters and set in the present day, Eyimofe follows Mofe, a factory technician, and Rosa, a hairdresser, on their quest for what they believe will be a better life on foreign shores. But after Mofe loses his family and Rosa fails to deliver on a promise, their plans collapse. As time passes and wounds heal, they realise that the future they desperately seek can be built at home. The film juxtaposes Mofe and Rosa’s perspectives to explore male and female experiences in Nigeria.
Eyimofe stars the UK-based actor Jude Akuwudike (Mofe) in his first leading feature film role, alongside the Nigerian newcomer Temi Ami-Williams (Rosa) in her first screen appearance. Born in Nigeria, Jude trained at RADA, and has had an extensive career in theatre, TV and film.
He left when he was six, returning only once briefly before filming Eyimofe. For the role, he met the man who inspired his character and soaked up the surroundings. Temi, who has previously appeared on stage, graduated from the University of Lagos while on set, doing her final exam in the middle of the shoot.
Hailed as rising stars of the Nigerian film scene, Arie and Chuko Esiri studied film in the US – at Columbia and New York University respectively – during which time they collaborated on short films. In 2018, Chuko completed the screenplay for Eyimofe, one of four scripts selected at the NYU Purple List Awards that year. Shot in 16mm in an observational style, Eyimofe was filmed across 48 locations in Lagos, offering an intimate, kaleidoscopic portrait of the city and its residents. As Arie explains:
“A lot of people mentioned how much I obsessed over people walking in the background, whether it’s the tailor with the scissors or the lady selling bread early in the morning – these are all things I wanted to include. The city is very much a third character in the film.”
“I just want people to experience this part of the world that they probably don’t know … To recognise themselves in the characters; to go on an emotional journey with the characters. And also to recontextualise what you may or may not have heard about the reasons why people are leaving the country.”
The BFI screening of Eyimofe comes during Black History Month, and Chuko hopes that the film will open audiences’ eyes to the richness and variety of Nigerian cinema, often categorised as “Nollywood”: “People have been making a mistake in conflating Nollywood and the Nigerian film industry. I believe those are two very different things, Nollywood being a part of the Nigerian film industry.” He continues: “If you look at the history of film, the fact that I could only name four or five African directors whose films influenced me shows there’s a dearth; and [those ones] are out of Francophone countries … Nigeria is where I’ve grown up, it’s where I live, it’s a place that influences me massively and those are the stories that I want to tell.”
The film is made by Lagos-based GDN Studios, which aims to bring high-quality content to an international audience, and to diversify the Nigerian film industry. The studio works in multiple genres, from world cinema (Eyimofe) to 3D motion-capture animation (Sango: Dawn of Thunder, to be completed in April 2021).
Eyimofe had its world premiere at the 70th annual Berlin International Film Festival, the first Nigerian independent film to do so.
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