Eyimofe (This Is My Desire), the debut feature from co-directors and twin brother Arie and Chuko Esiri, is set to hit various theatres across Nigeria from Friday July 23.
The movie, a heartrending and hopeful portrait of everyday human endurance in Nigeria, West Africa, traces the journeys of two distantly connected strangers at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.
The film is a vivid snapshot of life in contemporary and chaotic Lagos, the economic hub of the country, whose social fabric is captured in all its vibrancy and complexity. It’s also a tale that was inspired by the filmmakers’ own journey.
In a recent interview, Chuko said, “In a romantic way, we wanted to insert the film in the catalog and annals of the great city films that had been shot on celluloid.
“We’ve seen Rome on film; we’ve seen Paris and London. But everything that we’d seen of Nigeria on film is archival footage. Its ethnographic footage, its documentary. It’s not cinema, and cinema is a completely different beast.
“Shooting on the streets of Lagos is notoriously difficult because it’s a dense city and has what are called ‘area boys,’ or street guys.
“The idea of shutting down a street for a film production, I mean, if the president of the country can’t do that when he visits, then we weren’t going to be able to do it for our movie.”
Speaking on their childhood, the twins born 30 minutes apart in Warri, Nigeria, said they grew up in Lagos, but were shipped off by their parents to boarding school in England to complete their formal education.
“At the time, the country was experiencing successive military regimes, and each regime had bright ideas about what was good for the culture, and these ideas were almost never good. So we didn’t grow up going to movies,” Chuko said.
Twenty years later, they both enrolled in film schools; Arie graduated from Columbia University and Chuko from New York University. During their time in New York City, they collaborated on a pair of short films: “Goose,” presented at the LA Film Festival in 2017, and “Besida,” which premiered at the Berlinale in 2018.
They returned to Nigeria as adults and found Lagos as a place that felt foreign. Eyimofe was however born out of that experience, the idea of leaving and returning much later to whatever home is.
“It came from my returning to Nigeria for my stint in the National Youth Service. From the age of eight to 22, I had only spent time in Nigeria on holiday, so now I was spending substantial time in a place to which I belonged but where I was also something of an alien, until then I hadn’t really faced all that it meant to be in Nigeria. I wanted to return to where it felt more familiar and where I would feel more comfortable in a national film industry. Even though Nigeria has a robust industry, Nollywood is a massive machine but I didn’t want to make the kind of films people make in it,” Chuko added.
Eyimofe was entirely financed in Nigeria and made with a predominantly Nigerian cast and crew. The film is now drawing a new level of international attention to Nigerian cinema and screening at several festivals, including Berlin and New Directors/New Films.
“The movie details much of African migrants’ experiences in the Diaspora. The production is very different and professional. Kudos to the directors and all the team behind it,” Akeju, a US-based director at Aflik TV while making comment on the new movie said.