Lonzo Nzekwe Talks “Orah” And The Harsh Realities Migrants Face
In line with the current sensationalizing of the “Japa” wave, Lonzo Nzekwe’s “Orah” dissects the lives of illegal migrants and the scary sacrifices that millions of them make in the search for what appears to be greener pastures. This film was selected for the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada, further shining the light on the rush for migration. TNR sat down with the director of the film to discuss the true meaning behind “Orah” and the importance of having conversations about illegal migration.
When asked how it felt to have this film showcased on a global platform and potentially reach a diverse audience who may be new to his work, director, Lonzo Nzekwe described the feeling as “profoundly honorable and exciting”.
Continuing, he said: “Orah being featured at such a renowned festival is a testament to the dedication of our team. The opportunity to share this story with a global audience, including those new to my work, is a filmmaker’s dream. I hope “Orah” resonates with viewers worldwide and sparks conversations about the themes it explores.”
The film touches on delicate subjects like illegal migration and the struggles migrants face both at home and abroad. This might affect the audience in different ways because the film is shot on different continents that view this issue differently.
However, this anticipated response did not deter Nzekwe. He instead found a way to dramatize the touchy subject without taking sides. Commenting on this, he remarked: “Balancing the portrayal of illegal migration was indeed a challenge. We aimed for a universal narrative that highlights human experience within the context of different continents. We approached the subject matter with sensitivity, focusing on the emotional journeys of our characters rather than passing judgment.”
The selection of this film came as a delightful surprise to the director. According to him, it is also a recognition of the hard work and dedication of the team. While they believed in the story of “Orah,” the selection at TIFF, one of the world’s most prestigious festivals, exceeded their expectations. It’s a testament to the power of storytelling and the collaborative effort that brought “Orah” to life.
Speaking on the inspiration behind this film, Nzekwe said: “The inspiration behind “Orah” stems from my fascination with family dynamics and the extraordinary lengths people go to protect their loved ones. Coming from a large family, I wanted to explore these themes within the context of a gripping revenge crime thriller. “Orah” allowed me to delve deep into the complexities of family bonds and the consequences of seeking redemption and revenge.”
For a film this good and ultimately complex, coupled with shooting the film in different countries, it is expected that it would present unique challenges. These challenges were described as “logistical challenges, from coordinating schedules to managing cultural nuances.” But they were overcome through “open communication, flexibility, and a talented team that was committed to bringing the vision of “Orah” to life, regardless of the hurdles.”
Nzekwe also spoke about some of the cinematic techniques employed to incorporate the beauty and essence of each country into the film. “We used a combination of visual techniques to capture the essence of both countries. In Nigeria, we embraced the vibrant colors and landscapes to convey the intensity of Orah’s past. In Canada, we focused on urban settings to depict her present struggle. Our cinematography played a pivotal role in showcasing the contrast, while the use of languages, original music score, afrobeats, and highlife music further immersed viewers in the cultural richness of each location.”
In addition to all of the hard work the “Orah” team had to do, this journey was “an incredible journey filled with memorable moments.” One that stands out to Nzekwe is when the team lost all their locations 10 hours before the first-day shoot in Lagos due to unforeseen circumstances. But “thanks to the brilliant Nigerian production crew led by Bose Oshin, 1st AD Ade Oshin, and art director Bisola Omolade, the day was saved.” He described his first time shooting in Nigeria as a “great” one.