“We don’t even know each other anymore—or ourselves.”
Among the sacrifices many immigrants face is long separation from the people they love. In Ekwu Msangi’s Farewell Amor, a family is reunited in the US after many years apart. There are cultural differences for those coming now, but even more, there is a struggle to see if the family is still the family they were.
Walter (Ntare Guma Mbabo Mwine) and Esther (Zainab Jah), along with their daughter Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) are reunited at JFK airport after being apart for 17 years. They had been displaced by the strife in Angola. Walter came to the US to establish a place for them, but because of visa issues, Esther and Sylvia were in camps in Tanzania. Walter has been driving a cab and lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.
Certainly they are happy to see each other, but there is great awkwardness from the time apart. Walter is now very settled into American culture. Esther, on the other hand, is very much a fish out of water. During their time apart, Esther has become very religious with the zeal of an evangelical Christian. Sylvia, as a teenager, easily begins to fit into ‘the culture, and becomes attracted to expressive dancing. But the kind of dancing she is doing goes against her mother’s understanding of proper behavior. The film is divided into sections that feature each person’s journey in rebecoming a family.
There are other issues besides learning to fit in to the culture that create problems. Esther’s ties to the church, to which she sends large donations, create friction between her and her husband. Walter was not faithful to Esther through all those years; he has created a home with another woman.
A key activity in this film is dancing. For Sylvia, dancing becomes her source of identity and belonging. Between Esther and Walter, dancing has always been a source of intimacy and togetherness. That makes it all the more troubling when we know that part of Walter’s life in the US was going to dance clubs where he would meet his other woman. At times dancing becomes the focal point for the conflicts within the family, but it is also the place where they might find healing and hope.
Farewell Amor is available in theaters (where open) and on VOD.
Photos courtesy of IFC Films.