by Carolyn A. Butts
From the first image to the last, Farewell Amor’s cinematography and color palette is breathtaking in telling the story of an estranged immigrant family struggling to reunite after 17 years of separation. Directed by Ekwa Msangi, Farewell Amor takes us on an intricate journey of a family separated by the Angolan civil war. A story about faith, the audience is introduced to Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine), his wife Esther (Zainab Jah) and daughter Slyvia (Jayme Lawson) in JFK airport where the long shot of the first frame emphasizes the emotional distance between them. The awkwardness of the airport greeting sets the tone for the film’s journey in having the family slowly reunite.
A film executed with a slow, steady grace that mirrors the arc of a family determined to survive despite the lost time. We learn at the beginning of the film, Walter filled the emptiness with a relationship with Linda (Nana Mensah) while Esther became a devoted Christian using God to remain faithful to her husband. Slyvia’s love for music, dance and her friends console her. She even connects with a love interest DJ (Marcus Scribner) who inspires her to continuing cultivating her interest in dance despite her mother’s objections. Sylvia’s love for dance ends up being the key to uniting her family.
“I used to be quite the dancer when I was young,” Walter tells his daughter during the first real intimate moment between the two in a hospital where Slyvia is being treated for a minor arm injury incurred during dance practice. He confides that her mom was a dancer as well and their love for dance was something they shared with her.
Esther struggles the most emotionally throughout the film in trying to adapt to life in America and she makes one new bond with Nzingha (Joie Lee), a neighbor who advises her on everything from where to shop for fresh produce to what to wear for a romantic dinner with her husband. Joie Lee plays the role with zest — she adds humor and vivid color to every scene she enters. Nzingha’s African clothing, guidance and straight to the point way of speaking balances out the sobering frustrations of the family’s search to settle down in a new home together.
Farewell Amor is a well-written and executed film that unpacks the struggles immigrants face in preserving their cultural identity and family ties in America. As Walter states, “This country is very hard for Black people…[Dance] is the one place I can be myself.”
Farewell Amor will be released in theaters and on demand on December 11, 2020.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER
Ekwa Msangi is a Tanzanian American filmmaker who has written and directed for television and film, including her feature directorial debut, Farewell Amor. Msangi has also written and directed several drama series for mainstream broadcasters in Kenya and South Africa, including The Agency, MNET’s first-ever original hour-long Kenyan drama series. Along her journey Msangi has been awarded the Jerome Foundation Grant, a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship, and Tribeca Institute and Sundance Institute fellowships.
Written & Directed by: Ekwa Msangi
Produced by: Huriyyah Muhammad, Sam Bisbee, Josh Penn
Starring: Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine (“The Chi”), Zainab Jah (False Positive), Jayme Lawson (The Batman), Nana Mensah (Beasts of No Nation), Joie Lee (She’s Gotta Have It), Marcus Scribner (“Blackish”)