ADAMMA & ADANNE EBO
Identical-twin filmmakers make their feature debut
THIS PAST SUNDANCE,
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul heralded the ascendance of a sharp, funny filmmaking voice. Two voices, actually: Identical twins Adamma and Adanne Ebo, 31-year-old double Geminis from Georgia who grew up playing basketball at the same house of worship where their film was shot.
As children, Adamma and Adanne attended church services two or three times a week. On the other days, they read Harry Potter, which, like Halloween — “the devil’s holiday,” Adamma jokes over Zoom from Atlanta, where she’s currently directing a show created by Donald Glover — was forbidden by the church for promoting magic and evil.
“We remember the pastor dedicated an entire sermon to the evils of Harry Potter,” Adanne adds from the twins’ home in Inglewood. When their Sunday-school teacher preached no sex before marriage, it was Adanne who raised her hand and asked what counted as sex. “I got in trouble for it!” she yelps. “They discouraged asking questions, which was antithetical to how we were raised.”
Part of a highly educated Nigerian American family (their father is a dentist and their mother has a Ph.D. in molecular biology), the Ebo twins decided in middle school they’d become lawyers. Then, on the day of their LSAT, Adanne glanced over at Adamma’s desk and caught her daydreaming about
Kiki’s Delivery Service, the 1989 Hayao Miyazaki cartoon. They realized they would have to split up: Adanne to Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law in Chicago; Adamma to UCLA for an MFA in directing. “It was traumatic,” Adamma says. “We had to learn how to not see each other every day.”
Adamma knew she loved to write and direct. But she loathed the mechanics of getting a film made. So when Adanne graduated from law school and plunged into her own career crisis, it was her turn to get the hard sell to go Hollywood and produce her sister’s short films. Their feature debut,
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul stars Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown as Trinitie and Lee-Curtis Childs, the first lady and pastor of the fictional Wander to Greater Paths Baptist Megachurch in Atlanta. Preaching has made the Childs rich. But Lee-Curtis’ sexual misconduct has also made them pariahs.
“From our experience, things are way more complex and way messier than people give them credit for,” Adamma says. “Maybe it’ll be received in the way that we want, which is simply for people to do what we were doing our entire lives: asking questions.”
The Ebos’ clothes and hair coordinate. Even their Instagram posts tend to match, and on Halloween, their costumes always share a nerdy fangirl theme, like Underrated Animated Villains or Black Heroes on Their Day Off. On set, the Ebos gave the crew a cheat code to tell them apart. Adamma wore her hair in pink braids; Adanne, in blue. They aren’t the first identical-twin filmmakers. Still, since most sibling duos are brothers (see the Coens, the Safdies) jointly helming their own companies, Ejime Productions — meaning “twins” in Nigerian — already makes the Ebos an unusual tag team in the eyes of the industry. “’One woman, we’ll let it slide,’ ” Adamma says, laughing.“’Two? Like, this is a whole lot, guys.’ ”