By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Lots of siblings make movies. From the Coen’s, the Hughes brothers to the Wachowski siblings, keeping it in the family is always a recipe for success, just ask the Esiri brothers whose feature film “Eyimofe” is making waves on the film festival circuit.
Slow, steady and a visual treat, the film, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and screened at AFI Fest, the American Film Institute's film festival in Los Angeles, “Eyimofe” follows two Nigerian families as they forge a path to foreign shores and is a migrant tale with a decent twist.
“It’s a migrant story about the way in which the country, and Lagos particularly, interacts with its citizens and how that can on the one hand give you opportunities and on the other hand push you out,” shares Chuko Esiri, who penned the script and co-directed the project with his filmmaker twin brother Arie. “We’ve always been frustrated about what we go through; what everyone in the country goes through on a daily basis, particularly the everyday person. Things here that frustrates people to such an extent that they are willing to risk their lives at sea to find new shores, wherever that may be,” adds the writer/director who we caught up with on the phone from New York.
The brothers who grew up in Warri, Nigeria, have written and directed several shorts together that include “Besida” and “Goose,” but “Eyimofe” marks their first feature film.
Centered around two exceptional performances, “Eyimofe” is a story of simplicity, loss and hope. Its main characters are Mofe (Jude Akuwudike), a skilled electrician who has hopes to leave Lagos for European shores with his sister and nephews, and Rosa (Temi Ami-williams), a hairdresser by day and bar tender at night who is hoping to make it to Italy with her little sister. After Mofe loses his family to a tragic accident and Rosa’s travel plans collapse, both characters find there is a future in staying in the vibrant city of Lagos.
“Migration stories is something that touches us all. Particularly now as the world is accessible to us,” says Arie, who joined the call from Nigeria. “It's something we are instantly all connected to in some way. This film was more about humanizing the African migrants we see on the news where the journey is a focus.”
Told in two separate chapters, one of the key strengths of the film is silence. The characters say little, and it’s their movements, mannerisms and choices that drives the story as it slowly intertwines the fates of these two people in a melodramatic manner.
“We don’t set out to make films to prove a point or make people think a certain way, but more to show in as much truth as we can what a certain situation is like. That lends itself to the way we shoot which is very objective, as we are just trying to convey a truth about a situation,” says Arie.
As co-directors, the brothers evenly split their tasks on “Eyimofe” to ensure the film’s fluidity. Chuko, as the film’s writer handled casting, while Arie dealt with the cinematography.
“We have very similar tastes and there is a lot of trust and everything is open for discussion,” Chuko points out. “The only time I would say there was any friction was when we were editing, and it was a matter of getting it right. We had a wonderful editor, but we had a lot of one takes and long shots all designed to make the film feel like it's happening in real time and we wanted it to feel almost documentary type.”
Funded entirely in Nigeria, and with a predominantly Nigerian cast and crew, “Eyimofe,” which was filmed in Lagos and made by GDN Studios is beautifully shot and moving and is a film that demands reflection.
For more information on upcoming screenings visit: https://www.eyimofe.film
Twin Hopes: Nigerian Brothers Tackle a Migrant Tale
By Samantha Ofole-Prince