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RISE 2022: A Pattern of the African Resilience
DIRECTOR: Akin Omotoso
WRITER: Arash Amel
CAST: Uche Agada, Ral Agada, Jaden Osimuwa, Elijah Shomanke, Yetide Badaki, Dayo Okeniyi
In the constant quest for diversity, Disney served us a fantastic inspirational biography of a Greek-Nigerian family, who started out as illegal immigrants trying to search for greener pastures in an unfriendly country. The movie starts out with the meaning of Adetokunbo (the King has returned from across the seas) which is actually the real spelling of the surname instead of the Greek spelling ‘Antetokounmpo’. In 1991, Charles and his wife Vera Antetokounmpo migrates to Greece, painfully leaving their first child, Francis because he was too young for the journey. Charles and his wife Vera alongside their growing family battle racism while engaging in the endless rat race with the immigration police tailing closely behind them.
Rise, is so unexpected, that it keeps viewers up on ten toes all through. For an African like me, what kept me on the edge of my seat was the resonance of African sounds; Jamm by Cheikh Lo, Black Man’s City by Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the sotto voice of Yetide Badaki’s slow humming of Omo Mi Seun Rere by the legendary Christy Essien Igbokwe, Ginger Baker, King Is Born by Aloe Blacc, Scatter by Fireboy, Obago (ft.Obi Ross), All I Do Is Win by Dj Khaled, and many others.
The idea to cast Uche Agada and Ral Agada for the role of Thanasis and Giannis was quite a brilliant one. The actors who are brothers in real life gushed out their earnest chemistry on screen. Another admirable performance was that of Dayo Okeniyi (Charles) and Yetide Badaki (Vera) who pulled off the relationship between Charles and Vera seamlessly. The subtle facial expressions and their attention to every smirk, smile, and eye direction showed a proper understanding of their roles. Another actor worthy of mention would be Joke Silva, who dashingly established her presence in the movie.
Despite being shot in Greece and New York City, the culture, costumes, and food of the Yoruba people were not watered down or just made in passing to please the foreign audience. Seeing Yetide Badaki’s head strapped in a gele and Joke Silva standing out elegantly in her Iro and Buba was quite a lot to take in. Basically, the balance between the Western culture and the African culture tipped off the scale to perfection. Another point worthy of praise is the attention to detail of the Director (Akin Omotoso) in displaying Proper African foods, and a splatter of Nigerian slangs. The commitment of the entire team to nail the Nigerian, Turkish, Greek, and English accents amplified the credibility of every scene.
As a Nigerian, one beautiful thing about the movie, Rise, is that it questions a lot of societal issues. First is the japa culture. There is an adage that says ‘the sun always shines brighter on the other side’. Nowadays that a vast majority of Nigerians are harboring the ubiquitous zeal to ‘japa’, the movie questions the authenticity of the ‘japa’ culture. It is normal human instinct to move towards ‘greener pastures’, but not at the expense of being a criminal in a stranger’s land. The hunger for greener pastures ushered Charles and Vera into a life of uncertainty and fear.
Another sterling point is the importance of family ties. The Adetokunbos story shows how transparency and a sense of vulnerability between parents and children help to strengthen the family bond. In the growing global strive for individuality, parents who are vulnerable with their children are very scarce. This is because African parents are addicted to the opium of projecting a ‘picture-perfect-holier-than-thou’ image to their children and to the outside world, however, Rise, effortlessly exemplifies Charles and Vera’s method of parental training. The reward is reciprocal when Giannis and Thanasis open up about their own issues affecting their lives
There was an astute gospel of resilience, the fear of God, and team spirit that reigned in the Adetokunbos home. The message of “if one man scores, the whole team scores.”, obviously laid the foundation for the brother in basketball. Their ability to sustain team spirit with each other at home flowed with no difficulty on the basketball field.
Their story, their challenges, and surviving in a country where you have to be faster than the police made them streetwise and resilient. It is no wonder when Giannis had nothing to say at his interview with Nike, he drew strength from the adversity that his family overcomes daily, in his words, “we are hungrier because we know the meaning of sacrifice.”
On the whole, Rise is a truthful portrayal of the highs and lows of being an ‘undocumented’ immigrant, a movie that explores more than just the extraordinary athleticism and court prowess of these illustrious sportsmen; but also explores the resilience of the human spirit. The movie is expertly made, the music and costumes captured all the perfect notes of this intensely emotional trip while also capturing the pride and passion of Nigerians. Rise is 80% for me and I must say that this was worth every minute that I spent watching it.
Kindly do well to let us know how much you like this review in the comment section, and give a shoutout to Ruth for editing this with me.
P.S: Pray for me, my school exams are around the corner!