AFI FEST 2020 REVIEW! “Amor” is the first word uttered by Esther (Zainab Jah), one of the three central protagonists in Ekwa Msangi’s lyrical drama Farewell Amor. It may sound trite, but love is the uniting emotion in a feature as tender and forceful as the wings of a butterfly. Whether it’s the love family members experience for each other, one’s passion for dance, an attachment to our home, or, yes, saying goodbye to love, Msangi’s earnest belief in what Huey Lewis referred to as the “Power of Love” is infectious, without ever becoming cloying. Msangi may be bidding a proverbial farewell in her feature-length debut, yet it marks the emergence of several highly talented artists.
“…Angolan taxi driver… reunites with his wife Esther and daughter Sylvia… after almost two decades of separation…”
Farewell Amor is split into segments, each named after its central characters. An Angolan taxi driver in NYC, Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine), reunites with his wife Esther and daughter Sylvia (Jayme Lawson) after almost two decades of separation. His apartment is tiny, so poor Sylvia is relegated to sleeping on the living room futon. They’ve grown apart. It’s not just cultural differences. While Esther’s remained faithful to him all these years, Walter had to end a relationship with Linda (Nana Mensah) – a burden he now bears. He frequents a nightclub, where he dances and therein escapes from the harsh reality of life. It’s through dance that he eventually begins to form a semblance of a bond with his daughter. “That’s the one place where I can be myself, show myself,” Walter tells Sylvia. “So, be yourself.”
Sylvia is ridden with angst: she misses her friends back home, harbors dreams of becoming “the most famous dancer in America,” but mostly, she’s resentful of her father for not visiting them all for those years. On the surface, Esther is more optimistic. “Everything is going to be fine, I promise,” she says. “God is good.” Deeply religious and fearful of temptation, she has her suspicions about Linda, is overly protective of her daughter (especially when it comes to boys), and misses her community, donating what little extra money they have to her local church (much to Walter’s disapproval).
"…about that moment when we dance, when everything else falls away, Amor takes over, and we bid our troubles farewell."