Akosua Adoma Owusu, Ghanaian director and writer of the acclaimed short film Kwaku Ananse (which Ciné Kenya featured here), is thrilled to have her first narrative short nominated by the Africa Movie Academy Awards. “At its inception, I struggled to find a Ghanaian audience that would value our traditional story in contemporary cinema,” says Owusu, “it’s truly humbling Kwaku Ananse received the AMAA nomination. “
Kwaku Ananse was commissioned by Focus Features, as part of their prestigious Africa First Award Program, and supported by the Sarah Jacobson Grant, Art Matters grant, and a well-received IndieGogo Campaign. The short film is a re-telling of the classic West African fable with a semi-autobiographical twist, featuring her uncle, Ghana’s legendary palm wine musician, Koo Nimo as Kwaku Ananse. Owusu received this award after gaining international attention with her short films, Drexciyaand Me Broni Ba, as well as from her work within the art world at the famed Studio Museum in Harlem. Me Broni Ba, specifically, screened at over 80 international film festivals and was later acquired for distribution by The Cinema Guild.
Photo credit: Yaanom Multimedia
Combined with the unique co-production efforts of acclaimed Mexican producer, Julio Chavezmontes (Sundance New Frontier “Halley”) and Lisa Cortes (Executive Producer for Academy Award Winning “Precious”), Kwaku Ananse premiered in competition at the prestigious Berlinale Film Festival, as part of the Golden Bear competition, and was met with rave reviews. Says the Guardian Nigeria,
“If Nollywood was absent at the Berlinale, Ghana was not. Akosua Adoma Owusu gave Ghana something to cheer about at the Berlinale.”
Between travelling internationally to screen her acclaimed works, and hustling to acquire the funding needed to propel everything forward, Owusu is working hard to both further her own dreams and inspire other African filmmakers that they, too, can do the same. Recently awarded the Most Promising Filmmaker prize at Ann Arbor Film Festival and named in the Huffington Post of “Top 30 Black Contemporary Artists Under 40”, she’s certainly paving the way to do both and is thrilled that Kwaku Ananse, is preserving a piece of Ghanaian mythology and is being so well-received by international audiences.
It’s a film about a Kenyan man’s struggle to deal with painful memories of his and others’ resistance efforts to colonialism. A phone call forces hurtful experiences to the fore and he realises that time does not necessarily heal all wounds. He remembers loved ones he lost and contemplates the meaning of such pain. His To Keep screened at the CinemAfrica Sweden festival.
Besides making short films, Tajdin draws, DJ’s, creates wall murals and sculptures. She enjoys making films about social misfits, exploring cliche’s and trying to re-present them to the world.
In keeping with her penchant for telling stories of the disenfranchised, Tajdin’s talent is displayed yet again in another short story Ciné Kenya featured here.Flourescent Sin a story about a drag queen thats is experiencing terrible heartbreak.
The film witnesses the drag queen’s poetic pandemonium; both self and body are stuck in Nairobi railway station’s no man’s land. “I’m stuck between where I’m supposed to be and where I am” — both a lament on his/her body, and a literal comment on the act of waiting at a train station, and the self-reflection waiting induces. Amirah Tajdin deftly melds the now iconic familiarity of Nairobi station, with the odd-beauty of the drag queen, playing on the expected and unexpected.
Another short story with a PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) theme related to colonial war is Tabatô. Which Ciné Kenya featured here.
Jonah is a short by Kibwe Tavares. It is set in Zanzibar and looks at the effects tourism can have on a country from an economic and environmental perspective. By utilising a narrative of friendship between Mbwana and his best friend Juma, these themes are explored. Mbwana and Juma are men with big dreams. Dreams that become a reality when they photograph “the world’s biggest jumping fish” leaping out of the sea.
Their tiny town soon blossoms into a tourist hot-spot as a result. But for Mbwana, the reality isn’t what he dreamed – when he meets the fish again, both of them forgotten, ruined and old, he decides only one of them can survive.
Kenyan artist Ng’endo Mukii’s thesis film made at the Royal College of Art 2012, focuses on African women’s self-image and esteem. Mukii’s mixed media animation is a result of using her own memories and various interviews she conducted.