: Fiction
GENRE: Drama
STATUS: Development




Stuck between Benin and Nigeria in Africa’s most enigmatic border town, a Beninese engineer who lives in Canada and a Nigerian singer spend 48 hours together, an experience neither will ever forget.





Border is a romantic drama in an unlikely place. Abe and Safurat are two Africans blocked at the border of Benin and Nigeria— one of Africa's most crowded and chaotic borders —for missing travel documents. The Canadian-Beninese Abe is en route to see his dying grandfather. Safurat, a Nigerian up-and-coming Afro-Soul singer, is on her way to perform at a concert in Cotonou, Benin’s capital. Their wearisome delay transforms into an exploration of space and self-discovery that ends with the beginning of a romance. 

30-year-old Abe, a hyphenated African, represents the generation of “Afropolitans” who are simultaneously from “here” and from “there”. He is part of African’s brain drain, for whom upward social mobility is the principal concern. His return to Benin evokes the painful past he had sought to leave behind: a mother who died early; a father who abandoned him, leaving him to grow up with his grandfather. Ten years earlier, he lost his scholarship for Canada to the son of a corrupt state official, an event that hardened Abe’s resolve to never again return to his country. Now his grandfather, with whom Abe had a close and affectionate relationship when he was young, is dying. Abe’s feelings of guilt and regret for neglecting him for the last ten years, compel him to undertake this journey in order to seek pardon from his grandfather. 

Safurat represents a new generation of activists who have emerged on the continent. They struggle against corruption, underdevelopment, and the lack of vision of the political elite. Hers is a very globalized generation that is highly informed by social media. As an up-and-coming Afro-Soul singer, 25-year-old Safurat pursues her activism via music, dedicating songs to the lower social classes that bear the brunt of Africa’s political deficiencies. She and her band members are on their way to Benin’s capital for their first international concert. Despite her strength of character, Safurat has difficulties standing up to her overassertive mother, who wants Safurat to stay in an abusive marriage. Safurat’s mother hopes for a solution, because their families are closely connected. 

Safurat and Abe are each other’s counter images. Through Safurat, Abe becomes aware of his self-centeredness and conflicted relationship to the African continent. Through Abe, Safurat gains the courage to assert herself beyond her family’s notion of a “good Nigerian wife.” The main characters’ time at the border is more than just waiting to cross into Benin. For both, crossing the physical border becomes a metaphor for transcending respective interior walls born out of individual and collective pasts. 


Filmmaking to me has always been about interrogating continuously imposed borders. As an African and a migrant, I have experienced symbolic social borders, as well as the very real difficulties of literal borders between nations. Whether one is allowed in or rejected is further complicated by the return home, which can be experienced as crossing yet another border. This border can be a testing journey to the unknown when both the place of one’s childhood and one’s very self have changed—often to return as a stranger.

Abe and Safurat, the protagonists, are blocked in Seme, the main border town between Benin and Nigeria for missing travel documents. The environment described in Border portrays this fascinating and unique but also unknown reality from the perspective of the two fictive main figures. Seme is often dubbed one of Africa's most absurd borders. Four times outnumbered by people in transit, Seme’s residents sustain themselves through illegal trans-border activities. “Illegality” is an arbitrary notion in Seme, a space where the people who live on both sides of the border speak the same languages, share the same cultures, and belong to the same ethnic groups. In other words, the closer one gets to the seam between two nations, the more this line blurs.

Border is an engaged project that explores complex images of the continent in all its contradictions, without idealism or victimization. The film’s social sub-text exposes the realities of postcolonial Africa, its arbitrary borders, corruption, and lack of opportunities. Also depicted is the continent’s quickly evolving place in the global economy, such as images of cosmopolitan cities like Lagos, as well as the artistic creativity of African youth and its cultural pride.

My vision for the film combines elements of fiction and vérité. Therefore, I plan to work with professional and non-professional actors. Some scenes will be filmed in the way of a documentary feature, with a small team, the extras being shot during their daily occupations. Professional actors will play the more complex roles of the two main characters, Safurat and Abe. Border is also a musical film in which the increasingly popular Afro-Pop defines on-screen music and soundtrack. Such depth of subject is enhanced by the film’s potential for mass appeal.

A quality film with well-developed script and narration, Border possesses all the ingredients for a popular film able to attract as much an African audience as an international one. The film addresses universal questions around love, the search for meaning and identity, and notions of success, forgiveness and maturity. Border explores complex psychological areas through the conflicts, fears, regrets, and hopes of its main characters, with which many viewers will identify. Viewers will also be exposed to a fascinating and unique location seldom represented on the big screen. The captivating Afro-Pop soundtrack further lends the film universal appeal.


Idrissou MORA KPAI - Director- Producer

Idrissou Mora-Kpai is an award winning filmmaker whose films have been screened world-wide at numerous prestigious festivals, such as Berlin, Rotterdam, Vienna, Milano, Busan, Sheffield, and garnered many international accolades. Born in Benin, West Africa, Idrissou has made a name for himself with his social documentaries tackling post-colonial African societies, African migrations and diasporas.
He is a recipient of the prestigious Dutch Prince Claus Award for his artistic achievements dedicated to promote social change in the Global South. Currently, he works on a documentary in the American South and on his first fiction project “Border.”
Idrissou graduated from the Potsdam Babelsberg’s Film University and has lived for many years in Germany and France. He now lives with his family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he took up a teaching position at the University of Pittsburgh.


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