Movie reveals difficulties in cultural blending

“Treacherous Heart” is a film based on a Nigerian immigrant, Ngozi Ejikeme, who came to Canada at the age of 10.

While growing up, Ejikeme had to learn how to blend into Canadian culture while holding on to her own roots. At 26, she faced the biggest struggle of all: to marry a man of a different faith or to submit to an arranged marriage her parents signed her into. 

Purpose of the film

Kathryn Fasegha, director and producer, has been working on the film since 2009 after watching friends and family go through many of the same issues.

“People don’t know what immigrants go through – especially youth. They are caught in between two worlds: the world their parents grew up in and the world they have to conform to,” Fasegha said.

Fasegha was born in Nigeria and moved to Oman, Middle East, in 1997. In 2002, she moved to Canada. Since being in Canada, she said she has seen how difficult it can be to adjust between the two cultures.

The film’s Springbank location, as seen in the screenshot from the film, was selected for its vast prairie landscapes. Shot in Calgary, the film used mainly local actors and a crew that was entirely Calgarian.
Photo courtesy of: ©TH Productions

“There is a huge misunderstanding between Canadians and other ethnicities. The immigrants think one thing about Canadians, and Canadians think another,” Fasegha said, “This film was created to eliminate some of these misunderstandings.”

Fasegha said that God is a main focal point in the film because “Nigerians do everything centered on God.” Throughout the film, Ejikeme consistently uses her faith as a pillar to pull her through different situations.

“In the film, Ejikeme is a Christian who wants to marry a Muslim. This goes against the arranged marriage her parents set up,” Fasegha said.

How one character is able to relate

Olawumi Adeniyi, lead actress, said that the film relates to a lot of the issues immigrants face in Calgary.

“Calgary is very mixed in beliefs and there needs to be an understanding that religion isn’t a tool. It is very common to meet someone with a different belief system in Canada. There needs to be an acceptance,” Adeniyi said.

Treacherous Heart was produced with the aspiration of addressing the struggle of immigrants caught between cultures in Canada.
Photo courtesy of: Femi Odufeso

She also said that the cast has different cultural backgrounds, which helps support Calgarian multiculturalism.

“It’ll be good because I just want all the viewers to relate. Minority or not, these issues have to be made known.”

Adeniyi was born and raised in Calgary, but her parents are from Nigeria. Because of this, Adeniyi said that she has been able to connect with the main character in personal ways.

“Growing up, I was facing the same difficulties. I wanted to be what my parents wanted me to be. But if I was that way at school I would get made fun of,” said Adeniyi, “I got called names and I did face a lot of discrimination. I was one of maybe four black kids. I hope the film grants a bigger understanding.

“I gave 100 per cent in my role because I want people to connect with the film. It means a lot to me because I’ve faced some of these issues and I’ve seen friends face this issue too,” Adeniyi said.

Kalyn Gilbert, supporting actress, agreed that the film will help people understand the different facets of life – religiously and culturally.

The cost

The budget of the film is currently $75,000. Fasegha hopes to hit $100,000 in revenue. She said that the production has been amazing with a reduced budget.

“It’s not uncommon for a film to be lower budget in Calgary,” she said, “But the picture we’ve gotten with that amount of money has been amazing.”

Aaron Bernakevitch, director of photography, said the movie had a lot of dramatic scenes that increased the production value. He chose to direct the photography because he felt it was a great opportunity.

Director Kathryn Fasegha and director of photography Aaron Bernakevitch on the final day of filming. Production took place over 14 days, with nearly 10 pages of dialogue being shot each day; most bigger-budget films shoot only 2 or 3 pages per day.
Photo courtesy of: Femi Odufeso

“I connected with the story personally because it’s a love story. Everyone connects with a love story. But maybe I’m just a romantic at heart,” he joked.

Fasegha also hopes that the film will attract a bigger audience like the Canadian government.

“When I created the script, I was hoping to catch people’s attention. The government has all these programs to help immigrants live in Canada, but the real issue is culture. There should be programs where immigrants can learn how to get [integrated into the] community.”

Fasegha also said she hopes the film will help immigrant parents understand what their children need growing up in an entirely different culture.

“I stay now in Calgary because of my two kids,” Fasegha said, “and my children will grow up how they grow up. I won’t make them grow up as Nigerians. They are Canadian.”

The film is scheduled to release May 31 at the Scotiabank Theatre Chinook at 7 p.m. The Globe Cinema will also feature the film on June 2. For more information visit: www.treacherousheart.com.

dbrown@cjournal.ca