'Hollywood has never been quick to change'
In an interview, director Ekwa Msangi talks about her new feature film 'Farewell Amor, a story inspired by the real life struggle of an Angolan immigrant (played by Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine), who reunites with his wife Esther (Zainab Jah) and daughter Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) at JFK airport after 17 years.
"I have lived as an immigrant of sorts all of my life. That has forced me to be very observant of people and surroundings. One's ability to carefully observe in order to determine how others move and interact is the key to one's ability to survive a foreign environment and has greatly shaped my love for developing characters with a lot of attention to detail. I have also seen firsthand that no one is a monolith. African characters tend to be painted largely by the problems that they face and I am determined to create multi-dimensional African heritage characters in my stories," said the director.
Speaking on bringing different perspectives of immigrants through this film, Msangi shared: "I was fascinated by the idea that although all three characters were experiencing the one same, monumental event – the triumph of the reunion – they were each having such different and unique experiences."
"Coming from East Africa, where a great many Hollywood films have been shot, such films tend not to portray any people, only animals and savannahs and then White people finding themselves against the backdrop of animals and savannahs. For the few films that do portray African people, the stories that Hollywood tend to fund have been stories about either the most exceptional Africans that ever lived, or the most wretched one," commented she.
Ekwa further talked about what stopped such stories from featuring on the big screen: "Unless there is a 'cause' behind the film — the elimination of war or famine, of FGM or child soldiers — it has often been believed that 'there is not a market' for African films. This is changing slowly and with the introduction of so many A-level African heritage actors now demanding to play serious roles. It has been a slow climb and the climb
is not over yet. I do believe that as I build my career, things will change, but Hollywood has never been quick to change, especially when it comes to diversity. So, the struggle continues and happily, we have stamina."