A new Nollywood film shot in Gambia uses the family adventure genre to explore the universal concept of identity crisis, juxtaposed with the growing Afro-phobia among African children born in the diaspora.
The Mirror Boy is the coming of age story of a London-born African boy who visits Africa for the first time only to get lost on his second day there. He makes contact with a spirit who guides him through rites of passage to self-discovery.
“If we condense that in a simple message, it’s that sometimes you need to get lost in order to discover yourself,’ elaborates Nigerian writer / director Obi Emelonye.
The film is co-produced by Patrick Campbell with Akin Salami (OH TV, London) as executive producer.
Lead actors include Nigerian Genevieve Nnaji, who has been described as “the Julia Roberts of Africa’. She won Breakthrough Artist at the Monaco Film Festival 2011 for her role in this film. In addition she has Best Actress nominations in Screen Nation’s Film and TV Awards and the Zulu African Film Academy Awards (ZAFAA).
The film also stars fellow Nigerian Osita Iheme and Ugandan Edward Kagutuzi, who won the Best Young Actor Award at AMAA 2011. Gambia’s leading actress Fatima Jabbe also stars.
Emelonye explains the shoot duration: “Sometimes people think that the length of a film’s shoot is directly proportional to its quality. That was not the case with The Mirror Boy. We shot for two weeks in Gambia and for another week in London. Some people would say this is a very short time to achieve quality but therein lies the magic of Nollywood.’
The film ran for five weeks in UK theatres in June and for several weeks in both Ghana and Nigeria. It will be released on DVD in time for the Christmas season.
The Mirror Boy received Best Picture and Best Pan African Actor gongs at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards 2011, as well as 12 nominations at ZAFAA 2011.
In addition Edward Kagutuzi scooped Best Young Actor Award at AMAA 2011, where the film picked up Best Film and Best Supporting Actor nominations.
Emelonye says the film’s success is due to a number of factors. “It’s a perfect example of every aspect of production coming together in perfect harmony. A great story with soul is given a fantastic treatment in a compelling script, which is interpreted by an award winning creative and technical team with a stellar cast of actors, known and unknown. The production team has a combined experience of over 80 years.’
With regards to the challenges faced during the shoot the director says that the project was blessed from the very beginning. “How many Nollywood films enjoy the personal support of a country’s President during shooting? The film has been profiled twice by CNN and has become the perfect example of the new found confidence of African filmmakers to project a bold cinematic identity.
“Nothing went wrong on this film and not many projects can boast that. Now that’s what I call blessed,’ he recalls.
Emelonye may be based in the UK but he says that as an African he understands the power failures, mosquitoes and the snail’s pace of government machinery on the continent. “So we worked around it and adjusted our schedule accordingly.’
The Mirror Boy is Emelonye’s tenth feature. His directing credits include Lucky Joe, The Asylum and Quiet Storm.
SCREENAFRICA Print Magazine – November 2011 (view here)
By Martin Chemhere