Film: ‘The Missing Steps’

The title of the film speaks volumes. “The Missing Steps” tells the story of the ill conception, realisation and negative end result of migration. Migration could be both legal and illegal but this film dwells more on the illegal factors by detailing just one of the multitude of facets of illegal migration.  

The brainchild of the Nigerian filmmaker Charles Okafor, the film serves as an advocacy drive not only to avert prospective illegal migrants of the dangers ahead but also to help the Nigerian authorities fight against the phenomenon hence the involvement of the Nigerian Immigration department.

Its timing is not accidental. The frenetic flow of illegal migrants across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe amidst the attendant difficulties they encounter may have ignited the scriptwriter’s idea to narrate his story. 

It is not a documentary ‘just a series that will tell stories of the plight of would be illegal migrants.’  

It comes at a time when the world attention has been drawn to the UN-Global Compact on Migration. Come September, Switzerland will be hosting a conference on the theme that will draw participants from all over the world to discuss questions on the protection of migrants and their rights. 

The film which will be serialised also has Swiss input. Not only is the Swiss government part sponsoring it financially, a chunk of it is being shot in Switzerland.

At a recent press briefing, an official of the Swiss Office for Migration, Mr. Karl Lorenz spoke of the reason behind the Office’s support for the film. “Many studies on migration have shown that ignorance, false information and wrong imagination have led to people engaging in illegal migration. Traffickers and their agents paint European countries as an Eldorado where they can easily get jobs and make big money.” To discourage such moves, therefore, he said, the would-be migrants need to know the reality of things through such medium that will be demonstrative with images. 

The Swiss Agency for Development (SDC) believe the project is within the ambit of films they normally support and worthy of the support given it. “If serious awareness of such information and the circulation of it is created it could be the right dose needed to make prospective migrants think rationally before jumping to a radical conclusion that would not bring the anticipated result,” said one SDC official.

Mr. Lorenz spoke of the project’s goal which is to contribute to the Nigerian government’s efforts to combat and halt irregular migration. 

The film was approved by both the Nigerian and Swiss departments of migration. Whereas Nigeria provided logistics, Switzerland committed to funding the 13 part series and the production of 200,000 copies of DVD’s.  The film will be shown on national Television channels across Nigeria while and the DVD’s will be distributed by the Nigerian immigration office and the National Youth Service Corps.

The film tells the story of a drug dealer who had requested a chemistry student, Joshua, to produce some drugs for him, which he did. One student who consumed the drug subsequently died of complications blamed on the drug. The father of the dead student did not take kindly to his son’s death and so went after the dealer for a revenge. Joshua was deeply affected by the turn of events and, together with his family and girlfriend became seriously disturbed. He became financially wrecked and short of ideas of how to regain his former stature. In his quest to escape the quagmire he met with, Oluwole, a visa racketeer, who arranged all his fake documents that enabled him escape to Switzerland as a way to soothe his mind’s malady. 

Upon arrival, he realised it was almost impossible to secure asylum. Contrary to what he had been fed with back home, the road was not that smooth.  He became one of those migrants labelled “sans papiers” - migrants without documents. Worse, he could not get job as he was unemployable.

Slowly he became disillusioned not being able to fulfill the promises he made to his friends and parents back home. As with most ‘sans papiers,’ he engaged in questionable work. One hardship led to the other as time went on and this lasted two years until the law caught up with him when he was arrested for riding a bus without a ticket. The end result was, unfortunately, a voluntary deportation.

On his return he found the conditions of the people he left back home had evolved positively. He was left with finding a fresh footing in a society which normally views returnees highly. This was a huge task and meandering through successfully was just a mirage. 

The total budget of the film, produced by C. & E. Production, is US$450,000. 

In a chat with the company’s director, Charles Okafor, he told Africa Link how out of six companies, he won the bid for the project. It all boiled down to the advocacy entwined in the script. It was too convincing for the sponsors to let go. 

He says he wants to leave a legacy of advocacy film making, an advocacy interpretation of the role as carrier actor so that in the end the film will be seen beyond the entertainment with which people have always associated his productions. They will now start to see another vista and dimension of our art through the kind of films we make.

He says, some people in America devote their time to issues of nationalism, conflict resolution, gender rights which all belong to advocacy. These people want to leave traces behind them. It is the same thing I want to do to leave an ideological legacy through a project of this nature. 

“Film making is an entertainment but film making advocacy is unique,” he says. “What is unique about it is that while I am entertaining you there is a large dose of advocacy that follow every tablet of entertainment that you swallow. It is a fusion of entertainment and serious message that brings about national development, socio-cultural and political upliftment, conflict resolution, peace and global concord.”   

Photo Mr. Charles Okafor and Mr. Karl Lorenz at the press conference