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The British Blacklist Speaks to Cast of ‘Above Romance’ Showing at Hackney Empire Sat 2nd August

(l-r) Cast of Above Romance, Rachael Williams & Charis Agbonlahor. (center) Writer, Director, Actor Kojo

(l-r) Cast of Above Romance, Rachael Williams & Charis Agbonlahor. (center) Writer, Director, Actor Kojo

Above Romance is a play written and directed by Hackney’s own comedian, Kojo, and is about a woman who has given up on love and believes Valentines Day is just a media hype until she finds herself being the last single person in her circle. With a cast that boasts a slew of the best of UK African Caribbean talent, Above Romance promises to be the romantic comedy of the year and the perfect friends night out.

I’m here some of the cast and the writer director of ‘Above Romance’ Charis Agbonlahor who plays lead character ‘Chelsea’, Rachael Williams who plays ‘Sasha’ and Kojo (the comedian) who wrote, directed and plays Chelsea’s ‘love’ interest Anthony.

Above Romance, you wrote it, you act in it, and you directed it as well and it’s the first play you’ve directed, you’re a bit of a one man army…

Kojo: [Laughs] Yeah sort of. My team’s helping out. But I’m directing and yes, first play. It’s weird because when I was in secondary I actually wrote a play, then we did it and everyone got an A+ so that was the first time I wrote anything.  Of late I’ve just been writing a whole bunch of scripts and short stories. I thought it would be cool to spend the first 6 months of this year as a writer. I wanted to kind of show people that I can write because it’s not a profession that people associate with me. Yeah you write material and jokes, but it’s a totally different format to film and plays…

What was the inspiration for Above Romance and why a play not a film?

Kojo: I think the inspiration is more me not being happy with what I’m being entertained by. I’m not really somebody who wants to go to America because I’m not happy here.  It’s easy to join that line of people complaining. But it’s more difficult to actually do something about it. So I wrote about five different short stories I put them all out on Instagram. Monday would be chapter 1, Tuesday would be chapter 2…and they were all like a couple of paragraphs; I put them out to see what the vibe was. Wasteman diaries was the first one that I wrote, and that got mad reception. So I thought okay, that was cool. I’ve had meetings with Film London about some other projects, so they were like ‘give us something small first’ so that’s shot and will be out in the summer. Then we had the play ‘Above Romance’ and that was more about women…
This was going to be another thing that I filmed. But I thought, look at Tyler Perry. The difference between him and Will Smith is that he owns his stuff and Will Smith’s a ‘player’. It’s a simple format, and I thought there’s a gap here. So I said let’s make it a play.

Did you guys see the short stories via Instagram and say hey we have to be involved?

Charis & Rachel: Yes

Charis: I think this is like the third audition I’ve done for Kojo. The first one was for Wasteman Diaries and I didn’t get the part. But I got the part in this.

Kojo: I’ve known Charis for about a year…When I was writing this, I had her in mind.

Charis: I missed my 22nd birthday celebrations so I could prepare when I auditioned for you…and I didn’t get the part…

Wow! You missed…your birthday…and you didn’t get the part. Wow!

Kojo: Don’t do that. Don’t start! I wasn’t casting for birthdays. She’s here now.

All: [Laugh]

You’re known for your modelling so how did you get involved Rachael?

Rachael: I answered a casting call. So it was simple as that for me. But I’ve known Kojo for a while now. I’ve never done any acting so it’s my first acting role. I always say though that sometimes in modelling you have to become a character so it is similar in a way. But in this instance it’s live, and you have to learn, and you have to rehearse and you have to feel the rapport of the rest of the cast as well. I’m finding it fun. The rest of the cast are easy to get along with. I thought it would be a lot harder. The most difficult thing would be learning the lines and getting into character. The character I play, Sasha, she’s very much how I thought I was, so I would think just be myself, but Kojo keeps reminding me to be like her. So it’s making that separation. That’s the difficulty.

What did you find appealing about the script?

Rachael: It’s real. It feels like everyday issues that people go through, and everyone I’ve spoken to they’ve been able to relate to at least one of the characters.

Charis: Yeah. It relates to everyone. We are an all-black cast but I think everyone can relate to it. Which is what I like as well. It’s not something which shuns a certain group of people.

above_romance_cast

Was it a trick to appeal to the ladies, because you know once women get behind a project like this…?

Kojo: No it’s not a trick it’s called common sense. Name a female character that women would wanna be in this country? None. There’s not one. Name one…we’ve got time…

Rachel: There are a lot of actresses, but no identity. I can’t say I want to be like her because she’s done what? Yeah great for them to get to where they are. But I can’t relate. I would prefer to go to America, or even somewhere now in Africa and look at the women there and that’s where I can see myself…

Charis: Even Hollyoaks. The only black woman in it, and they make her a man. What is that about!?

What inspired the story of Another Romance?

Kojo: I came up with the story, because I know Chelsea. I know that woman. Chelsea is the lead character. She’s been through stuff in relationships and she’s taking it out on everybody else. But ultimately who’s she really hurting? Herself.

Is she based on anyone?

Kojo: She’s based on maybe, 70% of the women I know. Remember this is a woman written by a man. So it’s not necessarily a male perspective. But I talk to a whole load of women and they talk about guys and what guys have done to them and my opinion is, what are you going to do about it? Are we talking about the problem that’s always gonna be there or are we talking about the solution?

So is this play going to help women find the solution?

Kojo: I guarantee it.

Let me be clear! You’re saying every single woman who comes to see Above Romance will leave with a man?

Kojo: [Laughs] No, no not necessarily. But anyone who can relate to any of the women will find clarity. There’s one thing to tell somebody your opinion, and there’s one thing to write it down.  When I wrote it down, I put it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, over 20 thousand people, there wasn’t one female that denied the story. I know that girl;  it might not be me, but that’s my friend. People were just tagging, tagging, tagging, you don’t do that, if you don’t relate. So for me that was my template to say ‘is this story real?’. I test it online first and if it’s good feedback…

Charis: When I was reading the snippets that Kojo was putting out. I thought this was just like my friend. But now I’ve read the whole script, I think certain parts of my life, not necessarily now, but I can say when I was 20 I had that mentality. So at certain times I can relate to my character Chelsea.

How did you guys work as a collective, and with you Kojo directing and acting in it?

Rachael: I think it’s just about being professional in every instance. Making sure you know your lines. Making sure you attend rehearsals. It’s just about being attentive to everything.

Kojo: This is a thing I brought to the table. But it’s all of ours. We spend a whole session saying is this right, is it wrong? I don’t claim to know every woman, and I’m not a woman. I listen to these lot. They have to also listen to what I think is right.

There’s a lot of focus on what women will get from Above Romance, what about the guys? After all it’s a guy who has caused Chelsea’s madness…

Kojo:  Anthony he’s a dad. He’s struggling. He’s got hidden ambitions to better himself. It’s that thing of your routine’s broken one day and it really crashes your whole world and that’s what Chelsea experiences. Their bond and their relationship is one that I think a lot of people have, between you and your best friend, or someone who likes you and you don’t like them like that…You don’t know them, and you judge them on what you see and that’s what their relationship is like.
I play Anthony, and Anthony is like who I was before I got my heart broken. I believe as a man, you don’t become a man until you’ve had your heart broken. Because you have to understand the pain you could potentially inflict on someone else. It takes a man to put himself in someone else’s position as well… Anthony is the image of a black man who does look after his child and that will resonate with everybody.
With Sasha and Lamar, if you asked most women what kind of men they want they’d pick Lamar. In the sense of him being a gentleman. He dresses sharp. He’s comfortable in his own skin. He’s an all-round charming guy.
Then you have Kimberley and Calvin, who are just fun. Kimberley’s not really interested in the whole lovey dovey thing. She’s just like he’s fit and I like him and there’s women out there like that…
So we’ve got a wide spread of women.

WHAT. ABOUT. THE GUYS?!!!

All: [Laugh]

Kojo: The guys. The guys are gonna come and watch this, and I think a lot of male secrets are gonna come out. There’s gonna be a lot of uncomfortable guys at this play….

Are you going to get cussed, like Steve Harvey was  for his Think Like A Man book?

Kojo: They probably will. But only a bad man would get offended and he will expose himself when he’s sitting next to his woman. I put lines in there that girls are going to look at their man and say ‘see what I was sayin’. I wasn’t going crazy’. But guys should come and watch it as well because what I’ve written is real. The characters go through hardships but they’re aspirational. I grew up on Cosby Show, A Different World, Fresh Prince I wanted to be a part of all those families. Same dramas same problems they just embellished them and gave them aspirational jobs. These are three women who are doing well for themselves, but there’s also that independent woman now that doesn’t believe she needs a man, who will find out why there’s still that boy in your life…

Hmmmm…woosah, I was about to go into debate mode…

All: [Laugh]

Kojo: There will be huge debate after this. The idea this year is to sell it out, for everybody to come and watch this because it’s real. The debate will come. It’s a powerful story I believe. The first thing which people said when I put out, not even the flyer, just the images of the cast was that they were all good looking. Which at first I took as a little bit of an offence because it was like name all these stars that you so called like, you’ve never said that they’re good looking? It’s something that you’re used to with American black entertainment.

It’s true that in the UK we have a lack of faith in ourselves…

Kojo: Agree. I am in an amazing position career wise. I’ve been in loads of meetings and when they’re like ‘ we’re not sure’…I’m like fine. Don’t say I didn’t come to you with it. On radio we do this thing on a Friday where we ask listeners to send a picture of how they’re listening to us and sometimes I get ignorant in my head because I think I’m talking to black people. You get Asian nurses, you get a Greek man in a shop, these guys are listening to me in the morning. Sometimes I’m being small minded about what I’m putting out there. So for me I could complain or I could say here’s a short movie, here’s a play. I’ve got five more coming. I’ve got another one we’ve just got budget for Sky 1 called ‘West End Girls’ which is the UK Sex and the City. So don’t tell me I can’t do it. There was a gap and I did Comedy Fun house. With radio, people never stopped liking Choice when I went there. Jeff Schuman was there. I’m a Choice listener and I brought the energy back. You may not like the music or whatever but people will still listen to our show because they relate.
That’s what I wanna bring back. When you see your own people, love that and support that. Because you wanna learn black history here. It’s like we don’t have any. Everything is African or American history. But people have done things here. But no one’s writing those stories.

How have you found the industry with your journey as British black women?

Charis: With modelling I’ve found it a lot easier. Acting I think is a lot harder hence why I went into writing in the first place. I wasn’t seeing anything showing black people in a positive way. But yeah I think writing opportunities that’s been positive and a lot easier. But acting you just get the stereotypical roles, like baby mother, or female gang leader.  It’s just negative images that I tend to shy away from.

Rachel: Initially for me, I thought it’s going to be easy for me, because I’ve won a beauty pageant, I’m going to be like Naomi Campbell, that’s what was being fed to me. Then I went to go and see agencies and castings for fashion, and I’m being told I’m not going to make it just because I’m black. From then I‘ve seen a lot of girls just stop. But for me it was more like I don’t want to just give up.  So I said I’m going to market myself. I’m going to do my own cards. I’m going to go to open castings. I’m going to meet makeup artists, photographers, and designers and sell myself to them and maybe for three years that’s what I did. Then they were just booking me directly. Once I’d built up good pictures and good contacts, I went back to the agencies and they were like, let’s see what we could do with you. That’s where I thought I’d had my break. But no. I had to go to castings with bigger brands, and the same thing happened again. Oh yeah we like you, but we’ve already got a black girl in the show  – and this girl looked completely different to me. They would say, your skin colour is African but you look and sound European so you’re in the middle so you either go this way or go that way because what you have isn’t selling. To me it was like, I’m working and booking jobs for me every day so what are you doing that’s wrong?  It was more of an attitude where they just didn’t want to book you.
I didn’t want people to go through the same hassle as me so I opened my own modelling agency where I do book out girls and it’s more easy for them to come through me. Gain their experience, get their images and stuff that they need so then they can go on to bigger agencies.

Kojo: It’s the same thing with anything black. You get to a point where they make you doubt yourself. You start to question how you look and actually, there’s nothing wrong with you. So if I can sell me, why can’t you with all your money? With me, I was told to go and make a short film, I’ve done it now, now what? My CV is a very strong CV. I’ve been in the game for 14 years. When I see what Kevin Hart’s doing. It’s about adopting the engine and the mechanics that works.
I’ve got to the point where I can’t mess up because I know how to do it. For me everybody chips in, everybody wins afterwards. I think this is something now needed. When the flyer came out everybody went crazy over it, it looked like a movie. I wanted to sell images which will make you rush and go and see Think Like a Man, but you have to be able to show the same love to our own productions. Which is why I say to these lot. We have to deliver. Like Noel Clarke. He can do whatever he likes. But Kidulthood will always be in the equation because that’s the one which will open the doors.

Last words about Above Romance…

Rachael: It’s a feel good play

Kojo: It’s a great girl’s night out; guys can watch it as well. It’s a romantic comedy but there’s a whole heap of messages in there and it’s real. It’s really kind of deep, some people are gonna cry, some people are gonna laugh, some people will be emotional.

 

Above Romance shows at the Hackney Empire Saturday 2nd August 2014 @ 9pm.

To book tickets go to the Hackney Empire Website:  http://www.hackneyempire.co.uk/3501/shows/above-romance.html

#TBBSUNDAYREAD Tammy V Speaks to Samantha Chioma, Writer of New Web Series ‘Life of Hers’

Writer, Samantha Chioma

Writer, Samantha Chioma

Samantha Chioma is a British born Nigerian writer who has recently debuted her first web series “Life of Hers” directed by Olan Collardy and Ola Masha of Cardy Films UK. Life of Hers explores the challenges of being a young woman of the African diaspora in a world where ambition and drive are in conflict with the traditional values of an African upbringing.
I caught up with Samantha to discuss the series, the inspiration behind the characters and how the series can help young people to understand their position in a cosmopolitan city…

Can you give us an overview of the 1st season without giving too much away?

Season one comprises five episodes, and over these five episodes the viewers are introduced to the four main characters, Kaima, Cassandra, Hodan and Valentine. The season gives some insight into their individual personalities, backgrounds and personal conflicts, and how some of these conflicts are resolved (or not!).

What was the inspiration behind each of the four main characters?

I wanted to develop four women who had different backgrounds, different personalities, different outlooks in love and life and different circumstances, but were united in friendship. I also wanted to address different aspects of modern life with these women, so for example, with Valentine, we see how religion can play a part in a young woman’s life, and with Kaima we see the difficulties that can arise when you choose a career path that’s more entrepreneurial and creative, instead of the usual 9-5.

How did the actresses who play each character win you over at casting?

I wasn’t actually involved with casting – the producer and directors took care of that. I did, however, have a discussion with the director beforehand about how I imagined each character looked and their idiosyncrasies. When I finally met the cast it was a real pleasure and I was excited to see what each would do with their characters, and how they would bring them to life.

Are any of the characters based on yourself and your experiences?

I think they all have an element of me or of things I’ve thought or discussed with friends. I’m very interested in people and what motivates them and excites them, what makes them feel embarrassed or sad or happy or ashamed.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Interesting question… I like all of them, but my favourite characters are Hodan and Onama (Kaima’s little sister). Hodan, because I think she’s the most complex and unusual of the women, and Onama because she’s young, brilliant and wise, but also a little naive.

Who is the target audience for the series?

The target audience are young women and men, both from the UK and around the world. For those in the UK, I hope it will be an accurate representation of some aspects of life as a young black woman in London, and for those around the world I think the themes and characters will still be relatable as a young adult in an ever-changing society.

Do you feel that only having women with an African background limits or even ostracises the series when it comes to women of other cultures e.g. Caribbeans?

No, I don’t think so. Whilst British Africans and Caribbeans have many similarities of experience, there are also many significant differences. Coming from an African background myself, I felt that the black British African experience was not one that receives much attention or exploration on TV, beyond the typical caricatures or stereotypes. I don’t think that having main characters who have an African background isolates viewers who don’t. We are unified by many other things, for example, our blackness, gender, goals, desires, beliefs, and the fact that we are young Londoners.

How do you feel the series will affect your target audience?

I’m hoping the audience feel familiar with Life of Hers, like I’m an old friend who has just told parts of their own story!

What was your main goal when you begun writing the series?

I wanted to write the type of show that I wanted to watch myself. I wanted to write a series that was about young British black women, that reflected some of the issues that we face today, and was also about friendship. The main goal was to write something that was relatable and could document and explore different aspects of life as a black British woman in the 2000s.

Do you think there is too for much pressure put on young women when it comes to choosing between family, career, tradition etc?

Tough question! I think this requires a conversation but I would say,sometimes, yes. I’ve been fortunate in that my mother never put pressure on me to do one or the other – she herself has been someone who has done practically everything simultaneously; education, career, family, business, etc. That said, however, for me and I’m sure many others, it was always implied that education (as in, up to degree level) was to be completed before anything else! I am sure that there were things she would have had to sacrifice for family, or sacrifice for her career. One issue is that young women are given such varying advice and this can be a pressure in itself. We are told by society and sometimes family members, to get our Masters degree, get a good job, be ambitious, but not too ambitious. Look good, but don’t wear too many designers or don’t buy that car or that house in case it scares off a possible suitor. So it can be difficult to find balance and the courage to do what you really want or need to do for yourself.

As a young woman who is building her career what steps have you taken to ensure that you do not have to sacrifice any of your dreams?

That’s another tough question! I’m a big believer in writing all my dreams down, so I have an A2 poster on the wall at home that has all the different things that I want to do and become. This serves as a reminder whenever I start to get distracted from my main goals.
I also try to ask for help or advice when I need it. This hasn’t been easy, and it’s not something that comes naturally but I do believe that many, if not all, things can only be accomplished with the help of others. It’s my way of being kinder to myself, and not working myself to the bone when there are people around who have the capacity, skills and desire to help.
I guess, another step I’ve taken is learning how to be audacious with my dreams and desires, and this requires lots of courage. It’s something that my friends and I discuss with and encourage in each other frequently, taking bold, innovative steps towards our dreams and careers, regardless of our fears, or the real (or perceived) lack of resource.

How did Ola Masha, Olan Collardy (director) and producer Waiki Harnais get involved in the project?

I had the idea for the series a while ago, and sent some ideas to Waiki and Ola for their opinion, as they have a lot of experience in film and script-writing. They then forwarded my ideas to Olan, who was really enthusiastic for the project, so after my exams (I’m studying full-time), I sat down and wrote the script for the five episodes over three weeks or so. Olan, Ola and Waiki took care of getting the cast and the rest of the production team together, and then finally all the filming and editing.

Social media has been used as the main advertising tool for the series, what kind of feedback have you gotten so far?

It’s been amazing, even before people had seen it, everyone was really very supportive and excited to watch it and were already claiming who they thought their favourite characters would be. Most of the people who have now watched the series remark how much they can relate to the characters and how well the series was produced, some going as far as saying it’s something that has been needed in the UK web-drama scene. It’s been overwhelmingly positive and I’m very grateful.

How did you get into writing is it something you have always wanted to do?

I’ve been writing fiction since I could read! I remember in primary school a teacher suggested an anthology be made of the stories I had written. I still have a few of those stories and they were imaginative but really quite cringeworthy. I love people, and I love exploring what motivates them, analysing them, empathising with them, understanding them and then explaining them to others. This passion is shown in my love for writing, and also in my chosen career path.

Have you done any other kind of writing and if so how different is it writing a series?

Over the years I have mainly written short stories and poems, though I wouldn’t call myself a poet at all! I wrote a play a couple of years ago. I also had a blog, The SuperWoman Chronicles, where I wrote articles about my life and my thoughts on culture, tradition, religion and womanhood.
Writing the webseries was an interesting experience and I had to learn a lot quite quickly, about structure and dialogue and writing succinctly; you don’t get the luxury of story writing where you can sit and spend paragraphs describing someone’s hair or clothes for example. Despite that, when it comes to storylines, webseries provide a flexibility that allows you to explore multiple themes without getting the viewer – or yourself – confused.

How did it feel to see your ideas come to life on screen?

It was really surreal. I had sat with these characters for months, reading their words and actions over and over again, editing and re-editing. So to see it come to life and see the characters take form is really an amazing experience.

What advice would you give a would be writer?

Just write. Write the story that’s important to you. Also, to paraphrase some advice that author Justine Larbalestier shared a while ago: consider your first draft a ‘zero draft’. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or not getting everything right in the first draft. Write it all anyway and then rework it later.

How long was the process between writng the series and getting it produced?

The whole process has taken about six months! It was long and tiring but exciting. We learnt so much in the process and hopefully that will show in season two!

What are your plans for the next year?

Having released season one on Friday 11th July, we’re moving into pre-production for season two now. So look out for that!

Where can audiences find the series?
Well the series is out! All five episodes of Season One are available to watch online now on the Cardy Films TV YouTube channel www.YouTube.com/cardyfilmstv

Here’s the link to the whole playlist: http://t.co/awcsE9OCWH 

interview with Samantha Chioma for the british blacklist by @Tammyvm

The Rise Of Nosa Igbinedion Interview by Kunga Dred

Filmmaker Nosa Igbinedion

Filmmaker Nosa Igbinedion

There is a shift happening in African-centered filmmaking right now.  Filmmakers having seen the lack of positive or multi-prismic characters on the screen and are increasingly looking to Africa to inform their story-telling lexicon. Nosa Igbinedion is a young man at the forefront of this shift.  

The award-winning director has mixed his love of comics with his knowledge of African deities to create his latest short film, Oya-Rise of the SuporOrisha. Nosa’s film focuses on Ade, one of the few people in the modern world who still has a connection with one of the Gods, Oya.  Oya’s job is to keep the doorway between the world of man and the world of the Orishas firmly closed, for, if it is opened, the Orishas will wreak havoc upon the Earth as retribution for man’s abandonment of them. To keep the door shut she must find ‘the key’ (a young girl with the potential to open the doorway) and she is tasked in keeping the young girl safe.

Nosa’s recently completed short film is an exciting journey into the world of the Orsihas as he takes us on mystically charged journey into a world that has been the cornerstone of African story telling for centuries.  Think God of the heavens, and Nosa will tell you of Olodumare, God of the Universe. Think Thor, and Nosa will tell you of Shango of the Skies who controls fire, thunder and lightning.
This quick peak into the spiritually powerful world of the Orisha and you will see why Nosa Igbinedion is rightly excited about the heights this ancient African narrative can climb. I caught the busy filmmaker and new father in moment of happy reflection in the week his latest film had just been completed.

You started the project by crowd funding – how was that experience?

Interesting experience. I realised after reservations it was really positive as people wanted to help out and be a part of it.
Crowd funding democratises movie going as it gives people the power to determine what they want on screen. It became a really positive experience. I can’t big it up enough for independent filmmakers.

Do you feel time is right for this type of film?

I look at western cinema regarding comic book heroes. I love superheroes I grew up with superheroes but I grew up on African mythology. 20 years ago it would cost 20 times more to make this film. New technologies have become our saviour. We don’t need to operate on a Windows ‘93 mindset when it’s now 2014.

Is there an African renaissance?

It’s more providence or serendipity. Two years ago I did a music video. It was an Afrobeat video and I inserted some African deities and it looked stylish and the idea came from there. At the time there was not really an African renaissance but with Half of a Yellow Sun getting international recognition, it shows that different types of movie are beginning to be told.  For me personally I want to make a movie I want to see.

So an Orisha series is on the horizon?

The world of the Orisha is too big. It can’t be just contained in any one film but film has to be the driving entity of the story that we’re telling. People took the trailer very well and I am excited about getting reactions to the short film.
We’re also looking at other aspects of media. It be could be a comic book and a web series. The characters I’m still working on are so deep. I really want to tell these stories so there are other forms of media we’re moving towards as well.

So what is the plan for the short film?

We have premieres scheduled for Nigeria, UK, U.S and Brazil. Then we will show it at various festivals around the world. When we complete the run we aim to put it online.

How deep do you go into the Orishas and where did you get the knowledge?

Orisha spoke to style of the superhero. Each Orisha has different colours, different numbers different powers, and possess a different characteristics.  My favorite superheroes movies are the ones you can connect with on a human level. Orisha in terms of a belief system is that people can connect direct with that deity to ‘possess’ them. In terms of the story telling, the superhero genre is a hybrid genre in itself, involving a lot of different styles which are relevant.  Magic is like a normal part of reality. I love Ben Okri’s book Famished Road. The first few chapters are crazy! The way he tells the story is amazing! When you speak to people from Africa there is still a strong belief in the supernatural. The idea of casting spells is deemed normal and not a distraction to the audience. It speaks to the magic in the world around us. The challenge for me is to bring this out in film.

Oya_rise_of_the_orishas

How did the actors work with the idea of the African mysticism was it easy to translate the story to them?

I have to credit the actors. They were really into it. They went away and did their own research. They dug deep because they are not going to find those roles everyday. I don’t try to (but I can) overwhelm the actors with too much information.

What happens now the short is about to come out?

I’m talking to investors seeking bigger investment for the next stage. But I want the story not to be lost by a big budget I want a story that will connect with people so we’re not looking for a Spiderman budget but I want to do it justice. We have a skillful team so it’s makes things cost effective.

So you’ll be looking at global Locations…

The short is more about the story and what we can do with it. In terms of the feature, Nigeria has to be a location as it’s the birthplace. Cuba and Brazil where the belief system is thriving are also important locations for the project.

Will people understand the world of the African Orisha?

The culture of the Orisha is so fantastical, that it needs to be told. But it needs to be told in a different way. Back in the day the elders would say ‘hey! You need to listen to this story!’  Some of the stories were too fantastic and we might not have listened.
Then we get a TV and see a man flying across the sky with a hammer and lightning coming out of it and we thought, ‘Wow’!
I’ve spoke to people in Brazil who have heard the same stories.  The movie is not just of interest in Nigeria as it connects to people around the world who have a similar understanding and culture. Imagine a show in Lagos set in 22nd century where taxi motorbikes (Okada) are hovercrafts. It’s a different way of seeing the world, a different way of seeing Africa. We have a more connected world. We often struggle to realize we have a lot of things in common.

What’s the mark of success for you and your team?

Film is a medium where you can speak to people. I just want to speak what I really want to say and hope people want to hear it. Changing the lexicon in the film language that gets spoken, especially in Africa. That would really be something for me.  If the film were released where people are still practicing the belief structure, then that would also be amazing!

The feature film script is also completed. Are you happy with it?

I love dreaming. The dream is becoming the reality. I dream out the large story, beyond that people can take this further.

You became a new father during the filming project how did you cope?

Her name is Ebiuwa (the door to prosperity is never closed). She’s beautiful! It has been challenging not just being a new father dealing with a lack of sleep (laughs) but like any film, we have had our problems such as arriving on location and the art director suddenly gets a stomach virus and has to head back to Manchester urgently so we just had to art direct the location ourselves with a moments notice. That was just one challenge. There were a few!

Which Orisha would you chose to be?

My ego says Shango. No wait! Ogun! The fact he uses technology and his application to the world. No, no! Wait, [we laugh at his inability to decide]. I’d be Eshu, he is the owner of the crossroads, wherever you are in life, he will find a road for you, [pause for thought]. Yeah Eshu!

A man with a clear vision for success, Nosa Igbinedion, thank you.

Oya – The Rise of The SuporOrisha will be screened as part of the Free African Film Festival 13 September 2014 Bussey Building, Rye Lane and numerous festivals around the U.K and the world.

For more screening info check: http://www.oyariseoftheorishamovie.com

For more information about the film: http://www.nosa-filmmaker.com

 

  interview by Orville kunga aka kungadred / @kungadred 2014

Nellie Tandoh Reviews ‘Shutters’ Currently Showing at The Park Theatre Until Sunday 3rd August 2014

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Director Jack Thorpe Baker, following his triumphal revival of Noël Coward’s Ace of Clubs earlier this year, returns to the theatre in collaboration with new company Making Productions to present a triple-bill of plays by American female playwrights from the past 100 years under the umbrella name Shutters.

Based around women’s roles in family life and within society, three very distinctive plays are brought to life with an all – female cast playing both male and female roles.

As the subtitle suggests, the audience are given ‘snapshots of life behind closed doors’, starting with the first play ‘Cast of Characters’ by Philip Dawkins. A family come together in what seems to be a photo studio to have their family portrait taken. The audience are introduced to the family members – mother Bernice, her four daughters and gay son. In between shots and poses, we are invited to listen to pivotal moments within their lives, which have affected the others without meaning to. However, amid the puns and family ‘inside jokes’, the audience as well as the characters are reminded by the voiceover narrator that this is a play, and the characters are prompted when a characteristic being played by one of the actors can be amended, mid performance. With a light-hearted tone, Cast of Characters has a simply realistic quality and despite the humour, the relationships between the sisters, their brother and sometimes oblivious mother, mirrors somewhat the moments and troubles that many would be able to relate to in their own family experiences.

Trifles, an early feminist play written in 1916, by Susan Glaspell is about an investigation into the suspicious murder of Mr Wright. With a few details slightly changed and placed from an angle to favour the women, Trifles portrays the male vision of women to be domesticated; the kitchen is their ‘domain’. However with Mrs Wright placed as the main suspect of her husband’s death it is her neighbour Mrs Hale and the investigative Sheriff Henry Peter’s wife, Mrs Peters, who are able to look at the minute details and piece together evidence in finding the reason for this murder. A subtle psychological thriller, and the shortest play of the three, Trifles is engaging from start to finish, as the women show solidarity even in such dire circumstances, only to instinctively unravel evidence that could bring Mrs Wright to justice.

The final play, The Deer written by Brooke Allen has to be my favourite. In a tragic story written by Allen as a form of therapy after the death of her brother, The Deer is one of heightened eeriness surrounding grief, love and pie, paralleling the lives of a human and an animal after an accident. The story is told in a beautiful, metaphysical way about Clara, who relays memories of her younger brother Russ to a ‘talking’ deer. The surreal overlapping of flashbacks and memories come across as blurred, conveying that the feelings associated with grief can be frustrating and confusing, when trying to keep those memories alive. For me, Jack Thorpe Baker’s thought process of how The Deer should be conveyed on staged is translated to me through how intricately each scene transitions from one to the next, depicting the fine line between life and death.
The energy is very genuine between this all-female cast and the presence of this can clearly be seen on stage. With just 10-minute breaks between each piece, the actors are able to adjust from each of the characters they play with ease, delivering amazing performances. Yet the actors who constantly stood out for me were Nicola Blackman and Yolanda Kettle. Blackman was superb in each role she played. Her fluidity in switching her accents showed just how great her vocal range is, and she brings a variety of physical presence, from playing robust Liz in Cast of Characters and timid Mrs Peters in Trifles, to absolutely daft, homeless traveller Winnie, in The Deer.

Kettle impresses as classy albeit slightly snobbish Vicky in Cast of Characters, but it is her portrayal of talkative, protective older sister Clara in The Deer that struck me. Her erratic movements and emotions exhibits just how she deals with grief before realising it is not her leaving this world, but her brother. The relationship between her brother Russ (Lucia McAnespie), lover John (Beverly Longhurst) and ‘the deer’ (Joanna Kirkland) are of quality, bringing this surreal, yet memorable play together.

From light-hearted humour, subtle thriller to eerie surrealism, Shutters takes the audience through a diverse range of genres in the space of an hour and thirty-five minutes. The collaboration process between Jack Thorpe Baker and Producer Darren Lee Murphy (the only males amidst this all – female ensemble) is one that I can only hope to see again.

Making Productions presents Shutters is on at Park Theatre until 3rd August 2014

To book tickets, please click below:
https://boxoffice.parktheatre.co.uk/ParkTheatre

For more information, please click the link below:
http://parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/shutters

Also check out the Shutters play social media sites:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shuttersplay/info
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShuttersPlay

 

 

Caribbean Writers Submit to The Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize Deadline 30th September 2014

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The Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize is an annual award which allows an emerging Caribbean writer living and working in the Anglophone Caribbean to devote time to advancing or finishing a literary work, with support from an established writer as mentor. It is sponsored by the Hollick Family Charitable Trust and jointly administered by the non-profit organisation the Bocas Lit Fest and the creative writing charity Arvon.

The 2015 Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize is for the genre of poetry.

The Prize:

The Hollick Arvon Prize, with a total value of £10,000 (approx. US$15,000), consists of:

  1.  a cash award of £3,000 (approx. US$4,500)
  2. a year’s mentoring by an established writer
  3. travel to the United Kingdom to attend a one-week intensive Arvon creative writing course at one of Arvon’s internationally renowned writing houses
  4. three days in London to network with editors and publishers, hosted by Arvon, in association with the Free Word Centre and the Rogers, Coleridge & White literary agency.

To be eligible for entry, a writer must:

  • be of Caribbean birth or citizenship, living and working in the Anglophone Caribbean and writing in English
  • be over the age of 18 by 30 September, 2014
  • have had at least two poems published in magazines, journals, anthologies, or websites with editorial oversight. *Please note that this has been revised from four to two poems*
  • not have previously published a full-length collection of poems with a commercial publishing house (a previous self-published collection does not affect eligibility).

For further information click here

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