Ah, Switzerland: land of magnificent bank accounts and political neutrality. Ah, Nigeria: country of crumbling infrastructure and government corruption. Worlds collide when white, Swiss-born Jarreth (director Merz’s half brother) hears that his Nigerian father has died and, as the eldest son, he must arrange for the funeral. Jarreth takes an As I Lay Dying–style trip to Nigeria, to transport his father’s body from Enugu to the village of his birth.
Like the car that meets Jarreth at the airport, Glorious Exit is slow to start, and needs a push. Once the group arrives at Enugu, though, the poverty shocks. Merz captures the bleakness with grainy film and available light, which is often just the feeble pallor of early-morning sun poking through smog.
Jarreth directs his complaints about the lackadaisical funeral financing and escalating costs to his brother; his words are delivered to the camera in German, presumably so his Nigerian relatives won’t understand. Merz shows Jarreth keeping cool even as his Swiss mind spasms in the midst of so much chaos (watch how close he comes to losing it at the words cow balance on the funeral bill), and his relatives react to each setback with a world-weary stoicism. Or at least, that’s what it looks like: The brief, interview-type segments with his three Nigerian brothers are well wrought, but beg for further inquiry.