This strong debut feature on the African immigrant experience in the US is told via an unconventional triptych structure that explores with uncommon nuance the subjectivity of personal truths and experiences.
Dir. Ekwa Msangi
2020 | USA | Drama | 95 mins | English
Not rated – likely to be at least NC16 for some sexuality
Cast: Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Zainab Jah, Jayme Lawson
Plot: Reunited after 17 years, an Angolan immigrant is joined in the U.S. by his wife and daughter. Now strangers sharing a one-bedroom apartment, they discover a shared love of dance that may help them overcome the distance between them.
Awards: Nom. for Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic (Sundance)
International Sales: Film Constellation
Subject Matter: Moderate – Family, Cultural Differences
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: Screener – Perspectives Film Festival 2020
One of the most rewarding discoveries of 2020, this Sundance in-competition debut feature by Ekwa Msangi is a must-watch. Cinematic stories about the African immigrant experience in the US are not common, but in Farewell Amor, we have something to behold.
It is not a flashy or flamboyant film, and there is nothing particularly fascinating about its visual style, yet what stands out the most is the film’s innate sensitivity toward its characters.
Msangi does it unconventionally by structuring her film as a triptych with each segment focusing on the ‘point-of-view’ of each of the three major characters, Walter, Sylvia and Esther, respectively.
Walter has been in the States for more than a decade since the Angolan civil war, while his wife Esther and daughter Sylvia join him only 17 years later.
Farewell Amor opens with them finally reuniting at a US airport, and this, and many other scenes are repeated in the subsequent segments as they try to rekindle the intimacy that they had lost as a family, as well as navigate the cultural differences of being in a foreign land.
I would describe Msangi’s work as Run Lola Run meets Rashomon in the loosest possible way, inasmuch as its structure and approach allow us to explore the meaning of subjectivity and personal truths.
The experiences that we encounter, even collective ones, are never the same through the perspective of another. With uncommon nuance, Msangi manages to locate the heart of these personal experiences, and her film is the richer for it.