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AFRIFF 2019: Nigerian docu on the fatal explosion, ‘Jesse’ to premiere at film festival

On November 13, 2019, a Nigerian documentary on a fatal explosion, ‘Jesse: The Funeral That Never Ended’ will premiere at the ongoing AFRIFF 2019.

'Jesse: The Funneral that never ended' is one of the Nigerian documentaries that will screen at the 9th edition of AFRIFF. [Eromo Egbejule]
‘Jesse: The Funneral that never ended’ is one of the Nigerian documentaries that will screen at the 9th edition of AFRIFF. [Eromo Egbejule]

Eromo Egbejule’s directorial debut, ‘Jesse: The Funeral That Never Ended’ is scheduled for a premiere at the 2019 Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) in Lagos.

The documentary film is the previously untold story of another community in the oil-rich Niger Delta that witnessed a fatal explosion many years back.

21 years ago, a massive leak pipeline passing through the community, connecting the south and north of Nigeria, triggered an explosion that ultimately resulted in the death of at least one thousand people, with hundreds more undocumented and tens of survivors with ghastly scars. ‘Jesse: The Funeral That Never Ended,’ the rehashing of that tragic story as it happened in 1998, is produced by Arit Okpo.

Speaking on his directorial debut ahead of its AFRIFF premiere, Egbejule said, “The documentary is the resurrection of an impeccably tragic story of a people who were hemmed in all sides by what should have been a blessing for them.

Eromo Egbejule's debut film as a director is Nigeria's documentary, 'Jesse'. [Eromo Egbejule] Eromo Egbejule’s debut film as a director is Nigeria’s documentary, ‘Jesse’. [Eromo Egbejule]

He continued saying, “With all the stories coming from the Niger Delta, it was important for us to tell this one lest they stay forgotten and become drops in the ocean.”

The documentary further captures the crucial moments before and after the pipeline exploded, through the eyewitness accounts of survivors of the long-lasting inferno, relatives of the dead, first responders at the scene and community leaders.

Narrated by Singto Saro-Wiwa, whose father, playwright and environmental activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, was hanged in 1995 by the late Sani Abacha led regime for his fervent criticism of the region’s exploitation, it also includes interviews with Nnimmo Bassey and the late Oronto Douglas, two contemporaries of the elder Saro-Wiwa.

Egbejule's 'Jesse' is scheduled to premiere at AFRIFF on November 13, 2019. [Eromo Egbejule] Egbejule’s ‘Jesse’ is scheduled to premiere at AFRIFF on November 13, 2019. [Eromo Egbejule]

The film threads the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta, the evolution of its people into collateral damage to continue the conversation on the region’s bittersweet relationship with crude oil.

In Okpo’s words, “The story of Jesse is the story of the Niger-Delta; a people for whom a gift has become a tragedy, a story of lives changed forever and of scars that exist long after the rest of the world has moved on.

The AFRIFF 2019 kicked off on Sunday night, November 10, 2019, with an opening that had the presence of Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed.

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