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Nigeria’s Eyimofe on world stage at Berlin Film Festival

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Co-directors of Eyimofe, Arie (second left), Chuko Esiri, (second right) with the cast Tomiwa Edun (left), Cynthia Ebije and costume designer Daniel Onyedikachi Obasi at the premiere in Berlin.

As at 9.30pm, the 495-seater CinemaxX 3 at Postdamer Platz was already packed full. If not for the reserved seats, it would have been tough for even some cast and crew of Eyimofe to get a space; the ticket was sold out days before the world premiere.

In the audience were some film practitioners from Nigeria such as OC Ukeje, Tope Tedela, Emem Emma , as well as Nigerians living in Germany, who were present to celebrate something positive about the country. Family members and friends of the production team, including the proud parents of the twin directors Arie and Chuko, Mr & Mrs Esiri were also on ground to see the film.

Aside that, the hall was dominated by practitioners from other countries who were interested in seeing Nigeria through the lens of the Esiri brothers. And with the level of publicity and awareness deployed by GDN Studios, the impressive turn out didn’t come as a surprise.

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The producer of the film Melissa Adeyemo, as well as the directors had few minutes to introduce the movie to the audience before the tape rolled. Being the first independent Nigerian film to compete at Berlinale, expectations were high.

To the sound of Celestine Ukwu’s vintage track, Okwukwe na Nchekwube, the world, for the first time, saw the film Eyimofe, an alternative migrant take that approches a much-discussed topic from a new perspective. For about 120 minutes that the movie lasted, the International audience were engrossed by the storyline and the scenery that serves as a window into the city of Lagos and Nigeria. And for Nigerians living in Germany, it was a nostalgic feeling connecting home.

“It’s not the usual Nollywood film,” one of the ladies notes, as the film tells the story of Mofe (Jude Akuwudike) and Rosa (Temi Ami-Williams), who are determined to pursue what they believe will be a better life in Europe. Though a typical Nigerian story, which will definitely resonate with most Nigerians, Eyimofe comes from the point of view that, with hardwork and perseverance, life can equally be meaningful at home.

The end credit for the film was greeted by applause from the excited audience, who had an exciting journey to Nigeria through the film.

“I like the film; I really enjoyed the scenery of Lagos that I saw. I particularly love the humaness of the stories; the realities of the lead characters of the film, Mofe and Rosa and how the stories connected with me,” Nigerian actor Tope Tedela said.

For OC Ukeje, Eyimofe is a realistic story that would resonate with Nigerians and anybody who knows the country.

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“I want to congratulate everyone that worked on this film. The most important thing is that they are very realistic stories, talking about the two lead characters. For me, what I believe is the starting point for any film is that the stories and script are written in a way that they are believable. I like the fact that they decided to focus on the side of Lagos that clearly shows the devide between the rich and poor; those elements are part of who we are as a people.”

To Ukeje, the film will go a long way in developing the imagery that Nigeria has had for such a long time.

“I think that all of this contributes to creating a more positive image of Nigeria; if we continue on this path, we will all win. For me, that’s important. I’m glad that the directors Arie and Chuko, after all the education abroad, decided to create something that is original.”

In a chart with The Guardian, lead actor Jude Akuwudike, who saw the full film for the first time, said it was an honour to be invited to be part of the project.

“I’m just seeing the film for the first time since we finished production. It was such a good thing to be working with a group of artiste who are so competent and so expressive; the whole thing was efficiently done.”

The UK-based actor, who left Nigeria at a young age, was nostalgic as he spoke on his experience on set.

“I left Nigeria at the age of six, so to be given a gift like this, a beautiful script… I was in Lagos for five weeks working for the first time, I was so excited. To be there in Nigeria as an adult for the first time during Independence Day? I had time to look around and absorb the city and the country; it was such a good feeling.”

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Jordan Mattos of Aspect Ratio Films, the distribution company for Eyimofe, is of the opinion that impressive turn out for the movie shows the level of interest it has generated.

“If you look around, you can see that it’s not easy to pack the hall full. So, it means people are very much aware of the film, that it has legs to travel, that the organisers of Berlinale has date in the Film. The fact that the seats were sold out tonight and even tomorrow means it’s really a good time.”

Mattos added: “Berlinale takes care of Europe, we plan to hit many cinemas, starting with a good, strong festival premiere in the US. Now, we have to find a niche country for more premiere. Once we introduce the film to audiences at the festivals, then we can start to plan distribution on theaters, online and the rest.”

Directed by Arie and Chuko Esiri, Eyimofe is presented by GDN Studios, Nigeria. Meanwhile, the screening continues on Friday, February 28, at Delphi Filmpalast, Chartlottenburg, while the last screening will be at Cubix 9, Alexanderplatz, Berlin.

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