“Homecoming” is a short film about Ibrahim, a Nigerian man, and his American wife, Lily. After his sister’s death, Ibrahim and Lily take in her son, Yakubu, but because of the tragedy of losing his mother and being uprooted, he chooses to only speak in Hausa (a Northern Nigerian Language) even though he can speak English fluently, thus alienating Lily.The story takes place in New York City and is about finding your home despite cultural differences and tragedy.
The film is directed by Miriam Agwai, an up and coming Nigerian film maker. Below are some pictures from the set, the film and a brief interview with Miriam.
INTERVIEW WITH MIRIAM AGWAI
CP-AFRICA.COM: Yakubu’s story is quite tragic. In the film you try to capture the nuanced themes surrounding the AIDS scourge and its impact on a young child growing up. What inspired you to weave this theme as sort of a foundation for Homecoming?
The inspiration didn’t come easily. For a really long time, all I knew about Yakubu was that he had suffered a great loss, but I couldn’t quite figure out what that loss was. I also knew that I didn’t want the loss to be the main focus of the film, but rather explore the domino effect that a huge loss can cause.
For me, the inspiration came, funnily enough, through praying. I did a lot of talking with God during the making of “Homecoming” in terms of letting him know all the things I was trying to say with my film and inviting his guidance and participation in the process. It was during one of these talks about Yakubu that I remembered a woman my mother became friends with at the hospital where she was a nurse. We were living in Jos at the time and I was eleven. The woman was a patient at the hospital dying of AIDS. When my mother spoke of her, all I could do was imagine her. I saw this wonderful woman dying. Even though my mother would give me PG accounts of this poor woman’s suffering, I could still see her; her body was decomposing and she did not have the luxury to be already dead while it was happening. I was paralyzed with the sadness. It must have been agonizing for her and extremely difficult for her loved ones to see her in that state. Worst of all, she probably felt the stigma of her sickness from ignorant and prejudiced people. I could only imagine how hard and agonizing in was for her in that state. My heart broke.
And that’s when I realized that that was Yakubu’s loss. He had not only lost his mother to a disease that ravaged and raged against her body, but he also had to witness every grueling second of it. After that, everything else fell into place.
CP-AFRICA.COM: Is this your first film?
No. I have four other short films that I made at school prior to “Homecoming”. But this, as of now, it’s the only one I’ve ever referred to as being my baby. “Homecoming” explores and expresses so many of the themes that are close to my heart: finding a place to call home, loss, patience, being able to show love even when it’s the hardest thing to do, the list goes on. “Homecoming” is my baby because of all my films it is the one that embodies the hugest parts of me.
CP-AFRICA.COM: Who would you say are your influences?
I have quite a few, but I definitely can say my top few are M.I.A, director Sydney Lumet, writers Lori L. Tharps, Jhumpa Lahiri and Nicole Baart, and my cousin Weykyoi Victor Kore . All of them, through their works (and in my cousin’s case, through his work and our talks) have taught me to tell my stories and all the stories on my heart with all the honesty I possess.
CP-AFRICA.COM: What do you love most about film making and/or photography?
I think my favourite thing is taking pictures of my friends when they are unaware of my camera. I love those kinds of pictures because you’re catching real moments and those are the moments I always remember.
CP-AFRICA.COM: Can we hope for more film productions from you in the future?
I hope so! I’m toying with a few ideas at the moment. I’m getting back into writing short stories and I’m also currently working on a script that is sure to make my nerdy super hero/comic book loving self quite happy. I’m just looking forward to telling more stories.
Miriam Agwai is a Nigerian filmmaker currently living in New York City. Born in Kaduna State, Nigeria, Miriam was raised in Plateau State, Nigeria, Harare, Zimbabwe and Yonkers, New York. She describes herself as having a nomadic heart and a hodgepodge accent, a love for good company, good food, good music and the Justice League.