EXCLUSIVE: Here are the first looks at writer-director Anthony Onah’s feature film debut Dara Ju, which premiered yesterday in competition at SXSW. Based on Onah’s short of the same name, the pic stars British actor Aml Ameen (The Maze Runner) as Seyi, a first-generation Nigerian-American financier desperate to succeed because of his outsider status.
“It captures that aspirational immigrant drive of success in America,” Onah said, speaking with Deadline after the screening at the Stateside Theatre. “It also provokes questions of personal identity and what it means to be who you are.”
The title, which means “better” in the Yoruba language, is reflective of Seyi’s battle between navigating the terrain of his culture with his intrinsic desire to thrive at any cost. “Here’s this guy that want’s to be better and do better, which is a natural instinct. But what does that mean?” Onah said. “That’s what he’s trying to figure out…there’s no clear-cut answer to this question and we figure it out through our own personal idiosyncratic ways.”
This conflict eventually leads to Seyi’s downfall, and he is forced to confront the relationships that suffered along the way, as well as his own qualms.
Onah, who immigrated from Nigeria to the U.S. when he was 10, said it was important for him to show a different perceptive of the American life. “I have this personal background and I want to tell personal idiosyncratic stories that reflect that background.”
Though depicted from a specific point of view, the film’s theme of ambition and self-discovery certainly gives it a universal appeal. “If you tell the story of a human being and try to capture with detail of authenticity and empathy, you can reach those who may not seem like the natural audience,” he said.
Check out the clips above and below.