Poignant and realistic, ‘Eyemofe’ , directed by Nigerian twin brothers Chuko and Arie Asiri, in their first film, showcases two movies in one, both tied to a quest to find a better life abroad. Daily life. However, daily life keeps getting in the way.
One of 17 contenders for the top prize, the Stallion of Yennega, at FESPACO, the Pan-African film festival in Ouagadougou, “Eyemofe”, or “This is My Desire” in Yoruba, is one of the few English-language offerings, and a movie not to be missed.
In the first part of the Lagos-based movie, we meet electrician Mofe, who can fix anything, even the old machines at the printing shop that keep breaking down.
He is saving money, has already bought a passport— under the name of “Sanchez”— and is trying to get his (fake) documents in order to leave. Jude Akuwudike gives a strong performance as Mofe, a truly compelling character.
Mofe’s sister and her three children live with him. He fixes their toys after a long day at the print shop with a rude boss, before he changes uniforms to go off to his evening job as a security guard.
Tragedy strikes when he returns from work one morning to find the generator on in their apartment and all four family members dead.
The incident puts a dent in his travel plans. However, as a dutiful brother, he ponies up the money for the morgue in Lagos, and brings the bodies back to the village, where Mofe meets his father and stepmother and their teenage son.
The father offers no money for the burial, frustrating Mofe, who continues to do the right thing. It is only after Mofe tries to get his dead sister’s savings that the father steps in with a neighbor who is a lawyer, demanding that any money go to him.
Frustrated by greedy family members he breaks circuit boxes at work, loses his temper and finally gets fired.
Life in Lagos
The film switches perspective and lifts the curtain on another drama. This time it’s the story of Grace and her sister. She also works two jobs, washing hair at a salon and working as a bartender. She hopes to go to Italy to start a new life. Her schoolgirl sister, who just wants to play with one of her schoolmates, has an undefined medical issue until it is finally revealed what is really ‘wrong’ with her.
Grace sometimes hangs out with the older Mr Vincent, her landlord (and also Mofe’s, in another building), but she is dreaming of a life in Italy.
A temporary tryst with a Lebanese-American businessman who feels used by Grace, and another issue related to her sister’s health, forces her to make a crucial decision.
We get a sneak peak of what happens next in both tales in the Epilogue, showing the difficulties of life in Lagos.
Theatergoer Dela Duvi, from Accra, Ghana said he loved the film, especially because the subject is universal—it is not unique to Nigeria.
“A lot of people are like Mofe in the film and a lot of girls are like Grace in the film. These themes are everywhere—you find people working in low-income jobs, but their families are draining them every single time,” says Duvi, 27, speaking to RFI outside the Neerwaya Cinema in Ouagadougou.
He says the movie reflects the hard-working everyday low-income people who are striving for a better life.
“Everybody wants to get out of the country to get a better life. People that decide, ‘I will stay back, and try to survive, and make it here,’ they tend to be happier than lots of people who are illegal outside the country,” he says, adding that this is prevalent in Ghana, too, and in other African countries.