For Nigerian filmmakers Arie and Chuko Esiri, there has been a lot to smile about. The twin brothers, born in the Warri region of Nigeria, have won over global audiences with their directorial debut.
The Esiri brothers have previously collaborated on two short films: Besida and Goose respectively premiered at the 68th Berlinale and the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival. However, Eyimofe (This Is My Desire)¸ is their first outing as directors of a feature film.
The 113-minute drama, which stars Jude Akuwudike and Temi Ami-Williams, dwells primarily on the theme of migration, a subject that resonates with many Nigerians below the age of 50. In the past eight years, there has been a mass migration of young Nigerians to first-world countries: embassy offices at Lagos and Abuja are hounded every day with tons of visa applications, with many green passport-wielding millennials fighting tooth and nail to jump on the next flight to London, Ontario, Stockholm, Helsinki, Pennsylvania, Brussels, and Atlanta. According to a survey conducted by the World Bank, 50 percent of Nigeria’s youths want to leave the country.
Eyimofe, which was shot in Lagos, had a limited run at local cinemas after its Nigerian premiere on April 18, 2021, and was largely overlooked by Nigerian movie-goers, who are not shy about their preference for romantic movies and light-hearted comedy. However, the film has been treated to positive critical reception: Nigerian author Teju Cole, reviewing Eyimofe for The New Yorker, describes the film as “that rare thing: a study in goodness, goodness as distinct from saintliness” and “achingly beautiful, bringing to mind a number of celebrated films of contemporary world cinema”.
More congratulations are in order for the Esiri brothers, as Eyimofe has clinched the award for Best Feature Narrative at the just-concluded 2021 Blackstar International Film Festival, the world’s premier event for filmmakers of colour. After a week of incredible programming, which featured the screening of over 80 films, including 19 world premieres, the film was selected by the festival’s jurors in a tightly-contested category.
In an interview with Nigerian film journalist Jerry Chiemeke for Afrocritik, Arie and Chuko Esiri explained the creative direction that influenced the making of Eyimofe.
“The overriding aim of the film was to tell a story about Nigeria and in doing so, present the human side of migration from West Africa. There have been a number of films centred around the topic, but none give you a sense of the world that’s left behind, particularly with respect to its joys and sorrows. I think ultimately, we wanted to portray life as it is.”
On the question of global acceptance and how it felt to feature at an international festival of Blackstar’s magnitude, they replied, “(we are) incredibly grateful. It’s been on the festival circuit a while and now in theatres in North America, and each time someone says they were touched by the film, we still can’t quite believe it.”
Fondly referred to as “the black Sundance”, the Blackstar International Film Festival, which holds annually in Philadelphia, U.S.A, helps to provide a platform for feature films, documentaries, and short films made by black, brown, and indigenous film and video artists. Since its inception, it has served as an avenue to showcase films that movie enthusiasts from Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America, as well as ethnic minorities in the United States, can directly connect to. The festival commits itself to celebrating genre-defying, intensely personal films focusing on stories of the African diaspora and global indigenous communities. To learn more, visit the Blackstar Festival’s website.