Approximate Reading Time: 4 minutes
‘Japa Japa, Japa lo London… Japa Japa, ja wo Canada’ these are the lyrics to the popular Naira Marley song, ‘Japa’. A song that encapsulates a phenomenon the average Nigerian youth and I dare say Nigerians in general may have toyed with at one point in their life to varying degrees of success – Emigration.
A 2019 survey by Pew Research Centre postulated that nearly half of the adult population of Nigeria had plans to move to another country within five years. Some will be successful… Others maybe not so. However, no matter the level of success on the path to emigration, one thing that cannot be denied is the increasing desire of Nigerians to be done with Nigeria as their primary home.
For Eyimofe: This Is My Desire, twin brothers Arie and Chuko Esiri hone-in on two characters. Mofe, a hardworking but under his luck Electrical Engineer that spends most of his working time patching up electrical connections, appliances and machines that need an overhaul. His work reminds me of the state of our nation, where root-causes of many of our problems, and required system over-hauls are overlooked, as our politicians throw band-aids of wooden foot bridges, occasional road fixes, unimplemented / semi-implemented initiatives and the regular rice, oil and wads of cash during election periods, at our challenges. Or the more frequent tactic these days, ‘silence’, or the allocation of blame with zero/half-assed action when faced with difficult situations.
Then there’s Rosa. Oh Rosa. Beautiful Rosa. Also, hardworking – many Nigerians are. But she’s faced with the predicament of taking care of her pregnant teenage sister, Grace, while making ends meet. To top this off, there’s a gorgeousness to her that attracts her landlord’s gaze and the interests of a foreign suitor. Lightly put, Rosa needs to balance the Lagos hustle, her street smartness and what comes across to me as an internal battle not to simply use her feminine wiles to her upliftment.
Narrated in two parts and an Epilogue, Eyimofe takes its time to draw the audience in. There seems to be no hurry. At some point, I wonder why the stories are told separately with little interjection. But I realize that the film is focused on telling its story. And a story it tells. But it is not only the pace or the strength of the story that shine as one keeps watching. The actors translating the lives of many real Nigerians onto the big screen, the cinematography, use of sound, and capturing of Lagos itself lifts Eyimofe’s appeal to me.
Jude Akwudike carries the weight of Mofe with a grace that keeps me securely focused on him. I think about this long after the credits roll away. What is it about this character that I can’t seem to shake away? Then it hits me. He is a near perfect depiction of the disenfranchised Nigerian man with good enough skill and a decent character to remain at the cusp of elevation, while life and Nigeria’s anyhow-ness ensures that he simply only gets by. He is not a hustler in the Nigerian sense even though he’s tilling for his bread. He doesn’t appear to have any street smart. He’s simply a man with skill, who is navigating tragedy and the system on his journey to find some level of success. It’s almost a question seeking to be answered… can this type of man find good success within the current system that is Nigeria? Maybe. The question is how often.
In the second part, Temi Ami-Williams introduces us to Rosa. It’s my first time seeing her act on screen. But again, I’m drawn to her. And watching her relationship with her sister, I can almost feel the weight of responsibility she carries. It is this responsibility that drives her decisions. Its almost a laser focus. She’s working multiple jobs and hustling her hustle. But there’s only one goal, the well being of her sister, Grace.
Even though both stories don’t focus on this, there’s also a feeling of parental abandonment for some of the characters. Either by neglect, or simply because the parents may not be able to fulfil their responsibilities. But elements of the story bring to the fore how the Nigerian society focuses on siring children even when many parents may not have the resources to follow through. This is more highlighted in the relationship between Mofe and his father. But the absence of Rosa’s parents (even though we are aware that her mother is alive), also highlights the concept of proxy parenting and the ‘community’ raising children for unwilling/unable parents.
I started my write-up with lyrics to let you know that Eyimofe is the story about two main characters trying to ‘Japa’. However, I must warn you that it doesn’t really focus on the Japa-ing aspect. It mainly takes you on a journey to understand why they may be hell bent on Japa-ing. At the end of the almost two hour run time, even though we don’t know what the rest of their journey will look like. We have been caught up on an interesting glimpse. And I dare say, we cannot fault their Desire, whether to Japa, or simply to succeed here at home. It’s almost the same desire you know that you constantly have – if you haven’t already Japa-ed.
Film is such a collaborative venture, and I dare say that the collaboration from this team resulted in such a beautiful film to watch. Those worked on it truly created something magical to behold – at least for this writer.
Eyimofe is currently showing in Cinemas across Nigeria.