Thin Skin is the story of a family dealing with the sudden surfacing of their absent Nigerian father after decades of estrangement. Told by and centered on Ahamefule Oluo, with his sister Ijeoma, who was raised in Seattle by their mother, Susan (Annette Toutonghi), once their father had absconded back to Nigeria.
This story is loosely based on the Off-Broadway show Now I’m Fine (described by the New York Times as a memoir with a full orchestra) and a piece on This American Life called The Wedding Crasher. This is to say, the (admittedly dramatized) events of the story actually did happen to Ahamefule and his sister, real people who both play themselves in the film.
A semi-autobiographical dramatic feature starring the people it’s about just sounds like a terrible idea, but the acting abilities of Ahamefule and his sister Ijeoma, combined with the steady directorial skills of Charles Mudede result in a charming, engrossing film experience.
“…Ahamefule begins to suffer from a strange auto-immune illness…”
Not incidental to the proceedings is the fact that Amahefule is an accomplished jazz trumpeter, with performances heavily featured in the film, infusing it with joy and life. The extraordinary layer of his music positions this film not where it could have landed, like a weird solipsistic experiment, but truly in the realm of undeniable art. His love of music, however, evokes the disappointment of his father, the honorable chief, who tells him on the phone after 20 years away, that being a musician is not the job a real man would have. This all came at a low point for Ahamefule: he was the recently divorced father of two children, living with his sister and mother at his sister’s place, with no money and few prospects.
He takes a corporate job to pay the bills, but he’s not meant to be a cube rat (who is, really?). His manager is a religious zealot who’s a little too excited about work-life, the character played to humorous perfection by Jennifer Lanier. At night Ahamefule comes alive in the Seattle jazz clubs playing the trumpet.
"…you didn’t need to know the details from the film, because it’s all there in the music..."