WhatsApp commissions first entertainment project, a film featuring Nigerian NBA star


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By Todd Spangler, Variety

Titled “Naija Odyssey,” the 12-minute film tells the origin story of Milwaukee Bucks NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo looks on during a FIBA EuroBasket game in Milan on Sept. 8, 2022. (Mattia Ozbot / Getty Images file)

WhatsApp, the popular messaging app owned by tech giant Meta, is bowing its first original entertainment project later this month — a short film featuring NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo, born in Greece to Nigerian parents, was named the 2021 NBA All-Star MVP and led the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA Finals title that year. In the 12-minute film, titled “Naija Odyssey,” the pro basketballer “tells his origin story of many origins as he reconciles his roots, birthplace and sense of belonging between cross-cultural worlds,” according to WhatsApp’s description. The athlete inked an endorsement deal with WhatsApp in February of this year.

Narrated by Antetokounmpo and his mother, Veronica, “Naija Odyssey” is loosely based on the classic Greek epic poem “The Odyssey,” depicting different moments in his life. “In Greece, my teachers told stories of travelers battling the sea, fighting to find their way home — to find themselves,” Antetokounmpo says in the voiceover for the film’s trailer (watch below). “I was on that same journey.”

“Naija Odyssey” is directed by filmmakers Nono Ayuso and Rodrigo Inada and edited by Mikkel E.G. Nielsen, who won the 2021 Oscar for film editing for Amazon Studios’ “Sound of Metal.” WhatsApp will release the film on Sept. 21 on its social media channels, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.

Find out why WhatsApp decided to commission this project.

Antetokounmpo has previously made the news for buying stake in the Brewers and joining BLM protests.

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