You are currently viewing I cry whenever I watch Breath of Life — AMVCA winner, Chimezie Imo
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The winner of the Trailblazer Award at the just concluded Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards, Chimezie Imo, speaks with FAITH AJAYI and NAOMI CHIMA on how he was able to bring his character to life in the movie, Breath of Life, and other issues

How did you feel winning the Trailblazer Award at the just concluded AMVCA?

I have won other awards from film festivals, but I think it is safe to say this is a major one. The feeling has been great. I have always been grateful for every nomination and every win; and for this one, I am thankful for being recognised. I am grateful to the AMVCA team, and everyone who has always supported, criticised, and watched my films.

Some people have said that your speech at the AMVCA was more like you submitting your CV. What is your response to that?

About the speech, it is funny, because I was not sure of all the things I said until I watched the clip later. For the Trailblazer Award, one doesn’t get nominated, so it came as a surprise. I really wasn’t expecting it. I did not know I was going to leave the venue with an award. I just went for the ceremony to have fun and support the Breath of Life team. It was later when I watched the clip that I heard all the things I said. I feel good and honoured that people liked the speech, but one thing I had always wanted to do whenever I received an award was to encourage young actors. I also wanted to introduce myself to the world, because I knew that a lot of people were watching, and they needed to know or be reminded of who I am and what I do.

How did you feel being selected to play such a prominent role in the movie?

It was such a honour being part of the movie.  I auditioned for the role, and BB Sasore (the director) called me back a couple of months later. They asked me to come in for a chemistry read. I eventually got the role, and the script was sent to me. I remember shedding tears after reading the script, and I had to caution myself to stop being dramatic. However, at the premiere, the entire hall was practically with tears after the movie. It then made sense why I cried while reading the script. I am just grateful to be part of such an iconic project. It was actually a lot of pressure being able to carry out an entire project like that, but I do love a good challenge.

What are some of the challenges you faced bringing your character in the movie to life?

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I love challenges, so if a character is not challenging, I will likely not take it on. However, one challenging part of the film was the pressure I felt leading a project that big, because I did not want to ruin anything. There were so many difficult scenes that were quite challenging, such as the underwater scenes. I had to practise staying underwater and holding my breath for a couple of seconds.

In what ways did the role influence you?

Playing the role ‘Elijah’ taught me about the love of a man who laid down his life for his son. That is the kind of love God teaches us. It also taught me selflessness, which is what I aspire to be.

What impact do you envision that the AMVCA award will have on your life and career?

I do not think that awards are a testament to creative greatness, but it feels great to be seen and recognized. I hope that more people get to see me, recognise my work. It is not just about the award, but the impact my work has on people. That is what I am all about; award or not. That award could have been won by anybody, and they would have deserved it. Basically, I hope that this award will help me to have more impact on people, and change as many lives as possible.

Which is your favourite scene in the movie?

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Every scene was a favourite to me, and the public did not get to see so many scenes, as a lot of them were cut off. But, one scene that resonates with me was the underwater scene. Though it only lasted five seconds in the film, we shot that from about 11 am till 8 pm. We wanted to get the best out of it. I had to hold my breath for every take, and it was challenging, because I was pale, cold and almost out of breath. I was actually scared, because the pool was big.

Why do you think the movie had such a profound effect on people as to make them cry?

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Whenever I watch the movie, I still cry. We were just trying to tell a story; there was no attempt to make people cry. But, people watched it, and they felt what the character felt. I tried my best to be Elijah (the character) and transmit every emotion that he felt. I tried to understand his journey, why he is how he is, and I tried to portray him in the most honest way I possibly could. And, that moved people to tears. I guess I did a decent job.

Did you envisage that the movie would attract such acclaim when you got the script?

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I am happy and grateful for how much the audience accepted the movie. The reviews have been very humbling and beautiful to see. As actors, we do our part on set and hope the post-production team will be able to put the pieces together in a way that can translate very well to the audience. I make bold to say that Bodunrin Sasore (the movie’s writer and director) hired a bunch of professionals to handle both the pre-production and post-production aspects of the film. I was nervous and unsure of what the final product would be, but after watching the film at the premiere, all my doubts were dispelled.

At what point did you feel like everything was falling into place in your career?

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There had always been signs here and there that kept me going and assured me that everything will be all right. It has not always been good, but there have been different signs along the way. I just keep going, because the vision and the dream are mine, and they are clear. I always keep going; even when it does not feel great. I have always believed in my dream and vision.

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