WhatsApp and Giannis Antetokounmpo are teaming up to release “Ugo: A Homecoming Story,” an original documentary that takes fans along as the Greek-Nigerian NBA superstar returns to Nigeria for the first time.
The film is directed by Rick Famuyiwa, the filmmaker behind “Dope” and “The Mandalorian,” and will be available to view on YouTube and in select markets on Prime Video starting Jan. 16. It is WhatsApp’s latest feature-length documentary. The service previously released the 2022 short film “Naija Odyssey.” Both films examine topics like family bonds, cultural discovery and personal identity.
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“Ugo” gets its title after Antetokounmpo’s Nigerian birth name. The film is a fly-on-the-wall account of Antetokounmpo’s inaugural visit to his homeland, where he is accompanied by his mother, who emigrated from Nigeria to Greece 35 years ago. Together, they delve into their family’s heritage and Nigerian traditions, strengthening Antetokounmpo’s connection to his culture. Antetokounmpo plays for the Milwaukee Bucks and is widely considered to be one of the greatest power forwards in the history of the game.
“Growing up in Greece, my Nigerian culture was something my mother made sure we carried with us, but I was never lucky enough to have a direct experience in my homeland,” Antetokounmpo said. “Thankfully WhatsApp helped me stay connected to my family and roots, allowing me to create my own unique version of heritage. To be able to travel back to where she was born, and build a new Nigerian family, has been one of my most rewarding experiences, and only made me more proud of the many cultures that make me who I am. I’m proud to share this journey which I hope many around the world can connect to, showing us that we all have a different meaning of ‘home,’ even when we’re far away from it.”
The documentary is the latest chapter of WhatsApp’s “There’s No One Like Us” film series that also serves as a call to inspire the platform’s users around the world to embrace their individual identities. WhatsApp reaches more than 2 billion users.
“Witnessing Giannis, with his mother no less, on his first journey, to connect with his homeland – Nigeria – in such a deeply personal manner evokes emotions shared by many of our billions of users on a daily basis,” Vivian Odior, chief brand officer at WhatsApp. “It’s a powerful reminder that the quest for identity and roots resonates universally, fostering a connection that transcends boundaries.”
Odior, like Antetokounmpo, is of Nigerian descent.
“The first steps you take in your homeland are absolutely unforgettable,” Famuyiwa said. “They’re life-changing. It was an honor to work with WhatsApp to capture that moment for Giannis and to share a story that not only I can relate to, but so many people across the world can see themselves in, too.”
WhatsApp and Antetokounmpo unveiled a partnership at the NBA All-Star Game in February 2022. “Ugo” features appearances from key global Nigerian creatives including Grace Ladoja, entrepreneur and founder of Homecoming; Stephen Tayo, photographer; and Yeni Kuti, the daughter of Fela Kuti.
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