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AFRIFF Spotlight: In Finding Odera, Love Takes Everything And Then Some
In this series, we spotlight AFRIFF screenings we find interesting. Today's focus is Charles Uwagbai's 'Finding Odera' and how it explores love.
How far would you go to find your one true love?
In Charles Uwagbai’s feature romance film Finding Odera, the protagonist, Olisa doesn’t mind putting everything on the line, even crossing the Atlantic.
Odera (Amanda Ebeye ) and Olisa (Chris Okagbue) are childhood lovers who get separated as teenagers but not without promising each other to not love other people. But life happened, and Olisa sets on a mission to find the piece of his heart that feels missing in Toronto, Canada.
This film is another feather in Uwagbai’s directing cap. He is known for other notable films like The Ghost and the Tout, Nkem, and another 2023 AFRIFF selection, Kipkemboi.
Finding Odera is about finding love again in a place you couldn’t imagine it could be. The film has scenes that reminded me of an interaction in a recent film I’d watched —Celine Song’s Past Lives — where Hae Song flies 13 hours to see his childhood sweetheart, Nae Yong/Nora whom he had not seen in person for 24 years. This is such a bizarre action that Arthur, Nora’s husband, admitted he felt like the evil white husband standing in the way of destiny.
Well, I can say for sure that Hae Song has nothing on Olisa who undertook unconventional means and risked everything to find his one true love.
In following Olisa’s quest, the film examines the critical illegal migration issue that has plagued Nigeria and examines the lead character’s approach as he sojourns to find his love interest.
Finding Odera is a warm, simple film that explores controversial themes and complex emotions like love, betrayal and self-actualization.
However, the film is not without its muffled moments. For instance, while the cultural references were quite adorable, some were just slightly over the top. An example is the good old jollof rice debate which, frankly, is quite tired now. Going to the extent of referencing an absent Ghanaian character through the dialogue of a supporting character just to establish the Nigerian-Ghanaian jollof war was just doing too much.
Another problematic angle for me was the fact that it took the help of a white character, Aria (Charlotte Daysh) to make Olisa see the light of the internet as a perfect e-commerce tool for his shoe business. This angle leaned too much into reinforcing the stereotype that Africans not technologically savvy enough. It’s also interesting that in all of Olisa’s searches, it didn’t seem to occur to him at all to take to social media and look up Odera. It’s either Olisa really has something against technology or he just wasn’t aware enough of basic world changes.
While the chemistry between characters in the film tried its best to be convincing, especially through subtext, it just wasn’t palpable enough. This made it a bit challenging to believe the switch in Olisa’s feelings. An argument can be made about such possibility on an emotional level but it struggles to pass logically.
Furthermore, some of the characters seemed non-essential to the plot. The chairman played by veteran actor Jide Kosoko appeared as more of a plot driver the film could do without. Beyond these issues, the film’s plot excelled as non-linear.
Romcoms in Nollywood have grown richer but many still struggle with executing the right proposal scenes. They need the right amount of heart, surrealism and authenticity in order not to come off as cringe-fests. The proposal scene in this film could use some more work to properly draw the audience into the moment.
Overall, the film shows the collaborative possibilities in Nollywood, especially with storytelling. As a member of the AFRIFF audience watching the film, I was moved by Olisa’s courage, albeit naive, to put everything on the line just to keep a promise he made as a young teenager in love. The film carefully combines the two parts of a single story told in different locations (Nigeria and Canada) in a way that provides the audience with very few gaps.
One could see that in the end, love truly conquers and could even be worth putting everything on the line - sometimes.