“This is wisdom,”The title character is in “Eyimofe”The Nigerian brothers Arie und Chuko Esiri jointly stage the debut film “Mofe”, Mofe is an electrician working at a printing firm. He introduces Wisdom, a new apprentice to his team. But Wisdom says “That is wisdom” twice. It serves as a signal that we are on the quest for the best possible life, one of many in this elegant and luminous movie.
“Eyimofe (This is My Desire)”The story is set mainly at Lagos and is divided into two parts that are subtly related with a brief epilogue. Rosa and Mofe are the two main actors. They both wish to emigrate to Europe, Spain for Rosa and Italy for themselves. They never see each other – we see his first, then theirs – but they are connected through the people they live in and some of the supporting characters with whom they interact.
Mofe is a print press worker and is played by Jude Akuwudike. His colleagues refer to him as an “engineer” at the printing press. His deep frustration at his low salary and hazardous working conditions does not go away by the venerable. He is particularly upset by the many ugly junction boxes that the management refuses to replace, despite his repeated pleas. We have had three accidents at work in a short time. Two of them are electric shocks. A printed sign can be seen in the background as Mofe takes the second, more severe shock. “The best security tool is a safe worker.”He works night shifts as a security guard. He is exhausted.
He is unable to afford a passport so he turns to an agent, who promises papers as good as the real deal. A passport will be issued. His family is shocked by a horrible tragedy a short while later. Mofe is forced to return to work because the horror that unfolds would be too overwhelming to move anyone. Akuwudike is perfect for the role. His life-wondering visage, essentially apathetic but with subtle tremors to meet every need, makes him a fascinating character. Mofe is still trying to pay his bills, and fulfill his responsibilities while he prepares for his departure from Nigeria. There are rare moments when there is some relief. After the tragedy, Vincent, his compassionate landlord, told him to forget about rent for the following month.
Rosa (TemiAmiWilliams) works two jobs, one as a hairdresser and the other as a bartender. Grace (Cynthia Ebijie), her younger sister, is ambitious, engaging, sickly and pregnant. There is no way to escape Lagos without help. But help will always come in the worst possible ways. Mama Esther, a scary and exuberant woman, arranges your trip to Italy. She asks Grace to swear that Grace’s baby will be her payment. (Why? Although it’s not mentioned in the film, I have heard of infertile couples in Lagos suddenly having babies. Mama Esther is able to offer new terms to Grace if Grace’s baby fails to work out. Mama Esther will have the girls agree to go into sex. Rosa, a bartender in New York, meets a young American man who is wealthy and realizes that he would rather have a friend with no immediate financial needs. Her landlord, Mr. Vincent, continues to say the following in one of few well-managed coincidences: “What about if I ask for you not pay the rent for the month?” We hear no magnanimity in his voice.
Plans can go wrong for the main characters of this movie. Each disappointment leads to another, and complications build up. There are also many repercussions for personal dignity. Rosa and Mofe, who are determined to run, find life a maze of paperwork: visa, passport, doctor’s reports, invitation letters, work letters, and even a doctor’s report. All of these documents cost money and can add up to huge sums of money. The film’s compelling logic is proof of Chuko Esiri’s concise and intelligent script. It doesn’t feel like a catalogue of misery or a sentimental third-world exercise.
The best description of “Eyimofe”It is about immigration. We don’t see an airport or an embassy. There are no tickets bought. Rosa and Mofe both seem to have the same goal: to leave. The pain is personal. Not only do the setbacks affect their hopes and hurt them more than they hurt themselves, but it also hurts the people who are suffering. Mofe once was asked if he was travelling and he replied that he didn’t know.
When “Eyimofe”Although the film is about attempted immigration it feels like the heart of this movie lies elsewhere. These two characters share a common temperament despite their differences in age, gender, calling and calling. They are both resourceful, patient, and, most importantly, they’re good. “Eyimofe”It is rare: it is a study of good and bad, the good in opposition to holiness. Rosa isn’t just a victim to misogyny or poverty, however. Rosa is able to check bad options and make the best choices, without feeling guilty or panicked. She shows compassion for everyone she meets, even Mr. Vincent with whom she has to draw clear lines. Mofe, who was fired from the printing press for a brief episode of legitimate anger has opened a repair store. He hires Wisdom to be his apprentice despite his precarious financial situation. Rosa is tender and loving towards her younger sister, who is sometimes sullen and immature. This is Rosa’s laconic friendliness toward the younger man.
Another possible story would have been about how too much deprivation can distort people’s moral intelligence. “Eyimofe,” a film that demonstrates the belief that happiness, goodness, and freedom can co-exist, reaffirms this belief. We are challenged to see beyond despair and to appreciate the many people who have managed to hold on to their values despite all odds. We don’t believe Rosa and Mofe to be outliers of their goodness. She is surrounded by other people who are good. There are many signs of grace.
The calm cinematography of “Eyimofe”, a film that is not as chaotic as Nigerian Nollywood films may be a surprise to viewers who are used to the frantic conventions of Nollywood movies. The film was shot on 16 millimeter celluloid film (lens: Arseni Khachaturan). It features long camera angles and an off center frame. It is beautiful and reminiscent of many other celebrated films in contemporary cinema. The vivid colors in the film – Rosa’s bright yellow dress, Rosa wearing a red jumpsuit by Mofe and Rosa’s yellow gown, as well as the hospital walls glowing a deep blue, and the beautiful night scenes – recall Wong Kar Wai. “In The Mood for Love”. This solid, but not overtly visible plot shares the Chekhov elegance that Asghar Farhadi wrote in “A Separation”. The West African setting is reminiscent of Mati Diop’s relentless handling of dreams of the poor. “Atlantic”. This cinema has many influences. (The codirectors are film school graduates who have cited SatyajitRay and New Taiwanese Cinema. We don’t feel the work is inferred partly because of the numerous influences, and partly because it’s the first time we’ve seen a movie set in Lagos. Lagos claims to be Africa’s biggest city. The visual influences are successfully transferred to new material. Perhaps they won’t rely on celluloid’s prefabricated romance on their future adventures. Maybe they’ll find something less polished, more in line with the present. This film is so meticulously made that it’s difficult to indulge in occasional nostalgia.
The epilogue sees Mofe’s weak father try to saddle him up under the care of Blessing (a younger half-brother). Mofe refuses resolutely. He has an apprentice. This seems like a conscious choice in a movie that names have so much weight. Mofe, whose name literally means “I want” and “my desire”, has decided to give up an unknowable blessing in favor of more reliable wisdom.
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