In the opening moments of Arie and Chuko Esiri’s Eyimofe (This Is My Desire) (2020), we first hear—the ceaseless hum of machines at work—and then see: a jumble of multicolored wires. The 16 mm film image is grainy, trembling ever so slightly, before Mofe, the site engineer at the factory, enters the frame and performs a repair. Wearing a gleam of sweat and an authoritative mien, he calls out on a two-way radio and gets confirmation that whatever he did worked. The camera lingers on the junction boxes. The power, the instability of which is a quotidian event in Nigeria, is back on—for now.
Such power fluctuations take on figurative significance in the film, as transfers of power from person to person flow through each prismatic frame. The two central characters, Mofe (Jude Akuwudike) and Rosa (Temi Ami-Williams)—both struggling to make ends meet—separately plan to japa (a Yoruba word that means run quickly from, get out of) Lagos, for Spain in Mofe’s case and Italy in Rosa’s. The names of those intended destinations supply the opening titles for the two self-contained chapters of the film, which are shown consecutively but happen concurrently, teasing viewers with the promise of the characters’ departures. The camera often positions Lagos and the characters objectively, while simultaneously illuminating the intimate anxiety surrounding the costs of Rosa’s and Mofe’s plans. Nearly every interaction in the film revolves around some kind of exchange—be it of money, time, bodies, grief, care, or the promise of escape—and unlike the often still camera, these transactions are unstable and all-consuming.
Eyimofe is the first feature by the Esiris, who are twins. Chuko has called the film “a reverse migration story,” as it shows migrants where they come from rather than where they end up, and in that sense its clock is set to place—in order for Mofe and Rosa to fulfill their desire to get out of Lagos, they first have to negotiate leaving Lagos. The brothers’ earlier shorts (Besida, Because Men in Silk Shirts on Lagos Nights) hint at a vision for textured writing and careful direction that is fully realized here. They both studied film in New York City, and Eyimofe, which began as a treatment for Chuko’s application to NYU, was a collaboration that evolved organically over a period of eight years.
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