Videos produced by Nigerian's in the Diaspora are a trickle compared to the flood of titles released by Nollywood studios every week, but expect an increase in both their frequency and industry impact. With Missing in America, States based veteran screenwriter Sola Osofisan and co-producer Buky Campbell showcase both the promise and the predicament of this fast-growing industry segment.
Telling a common tale of loss, determination, and the drive to succeed at all costs, MIA's central character, Tonia (Uche Ama-Abriel), journeys from Nigeria to New York to find her incognito husband, Fela. She learns that the friendship and extended family relationships so vital for Africans at home mean nothing across the Atlantic. By paralleling Manhattan's imposing, impersonal landscapes with the snow-spotted emptiness of the New Jersey suburbs, Osofisan's scene selection and Segun Omokejis melancholic cinematography emphasize the loneliness and isolation of her quest.
Ama-Abriel, one of the movie's stronger actors, portrays the newcomer's initial subdued enthusiasm and progression to anger, frustration and resignation without degenerating into the all too frequent broad pantomime of Nigerian productions.
Unfortunately, her co-stars do not match her comfort in front of the camera. Bimbo (Buky Campbell), a successful but single attorney who helps Tonia in her quest, turns in an uneven performance in this crucial supporting character role. Bimbo's scenes with her love interest bring out the best in her; but the rest of her performance, particularly an extended dialogue with Ama-Abriel, seems lackluster and unconvincing.
The weak acting undermines the professional technical quality of the camerawork and the well-scripted dialogue. Particularly disappointing are cameos by a painfully amateur taxi driver, and a short discussion between Tonia and an old roommate of her husband. Austeen Eboka, playing Bimbo's (Campbell) persistent admirer, gives a disappointing performance: rather than the tender tones of flirting suitors, both actors deliver a hammer fisted performance.
Though Missing in America succeeds in telling an accurate story about the lengths to which many African immigrants go in order to thrive in the US, uneven performances from its main actors undermine the production. It seems that Osofisan and Campbell, who also served as co-producers, director, editor and casting agent for the project, were over-stretched and would be better served by concentrating on fewer roles in their next production.