My festival coverage for Raindance has begun and I can’t believe I was accepted for another festival. I wanted to make sure that, like London Film Festival, I pick a variety of films that are all different. The first film on my watch list is the French-language film The Eagle’s Nest. Made on a £5,000 budget, The Eagle’s Nest is the directorial debut by Cameroonian filmmaker Olivier Assoua. When sexworkers Paris (Claude S Mbida Nkou) and Samantha (Felicity Asseh) stumble upon a lot of money, their lives are turned upside down as Paris’ mother and sister are brutally murdered. Both protagonists hold so much strength and resilience but are different in many ways. A poignant portrayal of loss and betrayal, The Eagle’s Nest is a harrowing look at the lengths one would go to to achieve their dream.
Assoua’s writing is particularly strong. I think that the development and character arc for both protagonists is done really well. They both have the same end goal but take different paths to get there. The first half of the film follows how the women find the money and the second half follows the aftermath with an attempt to figure out who organised the murder. Primarily a drama, the film is like a puzzle that slowly comes together as the plot unfolds. Showing the darkness that creeps through when dreams are in sight, Assoua’s script works as a drama about one woman’s struggle to find a place to belong and also a revenge piece as she is enraged by the injustice done to her and her family.
Claude S Mbida Nkou’s performance as Paris is a brilliant debut as she dons a hard exterior but has a softness within that makes her vulnerable in her quest to leave for Europe. She feels trapped in her currently situation and is convinced that her home is elsewhere. Her style is considerable different than everyone else in the film. Donning long blonde hair, nose and lip rings and black lacy clothes, Paris’ blackness is questioned by Samantha but she hits back claiming this is how she wishes to express herself as a gothic doll. There is also religious conflict in Paris that is subtly woven throughout the film. In the beginning, she refuses to say grace but when she awakes after the invasion, she is seen with a crucifix around her neck. One could question whether it was divine intervention that prevented her from dying or whether it is fate wanting her to continue on her journey.
Felicity Asseh’s performance as Paris’ best friend Samantha also has an equally dark storyline throughout the film. Finding herself pregnant and in a relationship with a heroin addict, Samantha is conflicted as to where her loyalty lies. On the one hand, she is wanting to leave with Paris but she is also deeply in love with Africa. Her love for Africa is expressed in her clothing, wearing outfits that have an African map print on them as well as traditional bright colours and prints. When her partner almost overdoses, Samantha refuses to be undone by this and tells him what she expects of him. Samantha is also more aggressive and assertive than Paris which makes her a fearless figure scarred by a tragic past. Even during times of great distress, her ability to remain calm and in control and her desperation to keep that control is deadly.
Assoua’s film feels deeply personal and resonant as he highlights a very real problem that exists today. Paris’ journey begins and ends alone but the growth between and allowing herself to be vulnerable is extremely empowering. Her dream to leave affects so many people around her without meaning to and shows the power that money has and the consequences that ripple from that. The ups and downs reflect the uncertainty Paris is experiencing as obstacles appear to stop her leaving from happening. Whether this too is divine intervention is also to be debated. Her longing to go to a place she has never been makes her blind to the world that is in front of her. In the end, The Eagle’s Nest becomes more about Paris’ development as a character than a simple plot of whether she makes it to Europe or not.
Overall, The Eagle’s Nest is an impressive gem and considering it was made on such a miniscule budget makes it even more captivating. By using the natural landscape and town as the set really captures the feel and authenticity of the film. The surrounding greenery is also extremely beautiful. With wonderful performances all round, Assoua manages to capture the struggle of identity and home. I am very happy to say that my first film of Raindance was an overwhelming success.
The Eagle’s Nest is showing at Raindance Film Festival.