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Farafina magazine presents: Charles Mayaki at the 2009 PAFF festival

Day 8

A Day of Short Films

There are a lot of short films playing in the festival. Short films often are the starting point for future talents in the movie industry. There are five films playing in the festival.

Worth mentioning is the short film, Happy Anniversary Punk!, which lasted for thirty minutes by Nigerian-American Mike Ajakwe, a successful TV and film writer. This was his first  project he directed and, which he solely funded.

Happy Anniversary Punk!

Happy Anniversary Punk!

Another film, Charcoal Traffic, which lasted 7 minutes, deals with deforestation as scenes are shown of trees chopped down and later sold as charcoal. Set in the hinterlands and rural region, the struggle for this wood leads to a violent and tragic end. Advertised as the first movie filmed on Somalia soil in fifteen years, it was directed by Nathan Collett who resides in Kenya.

Following after was Release, a six minutes film, which is a lyrical, impressionistic DV movie, filmed in Cameroon that celebrates African oral tradition—one of the stories was about two boys who run into olden spirits, and as a result they are required to complete a task that will bring peace to the continent.

Charcoal Traffic

Charcoal Traffic

Hair We Are, produced in the UK takes place on a school playground where the virtues of black hair are discussed.

The movies were not parochial, for there was Layla, which deals with the opium trade as seen through the eyes of a Palestinian immigrant. Although it was produced and directed by African American filmmakers, majority of the cast were of Arab and white origin. There was also My brother’s Keeper, a family comedy directed by Caucasian students from USC Film School. It is set in the 70s and deals with two African American brothers getting to know each other while their mom is out. It resembles the American sit-com classics Good Times and the Jeffersons.

Hair We Are

Hair We Are

Last was the movie, Warrior Queen, that excited the audience the most and stole all the questions during the Q & A. Warrior Queen, a twenty-two minutes flick from UCLA film grad, Hezekiah Lewis. It’s about the time when Asante Empire Queen Asantewa stood up to the English in the one of the final wars before Ghana was made part of the British Empire.

Epic looking, with cinematography and a big lush score straight out of Hollywood epics, and a Brave Heart theme about the oppressed standing up to the invaders, it offered excitement to an audience not used to seeing African culture played on a grand scale. Budget of the movie financed largely by grants was over a $100,000.

He was inspired to make the movie, after hearing African American poet and writer Maya Angelou lament the lack of stories about African empires.

My Brother's Keeper

My Brother's Keeper

Filmed in a hurry with some of Ghana’s most revered actors, he hopes to turn the movie into a feature film. This was the first première of what looks like many for this movie, which was only completed two weeks ago. Hezekiah Lewis has a long history directing. Warrior Queen is his thesis film.

Not part of a short program but attached to a movie is Kwame, directed by Ghanaian and first generation British citizen Edward Osei-Gyimah. The movie centres on a Los Angeles cab driver (Benjamin Ochieng, Tears of the Sun) who is haunted by memories and images of the 1979 Rawlings coup and his relationship with a Latina drug addict (Jessica Diz). It is a contemplative movie that offers a hopeful ending for the future of the character and Ghana.

Warrior Queen Production

Warrior Queen Production

Director Gyimah is a graduate of “The School”— University of Southern California Film Program—as it is called because of its relationship with the Hollywood movie industry.

Edward commented that he hopes to turn the movie into a feature film where he can focus more on the stratification of neighbourhoods in Los Angeles, which he finds so strange since he comes from London where everyone of the same income bracket lives in the same vicinity.

kwame

kwame

He talked about being black and the difficulty of getting such movies green lit because they don’t do well and are considered too narrow in its audience. He thinks that will change as Africa begins to tell its own story. He was surprised to see the Ghanaian movie, Run Baby Run which is playing in the festival (and financed in Ghana). He remarked that England is much tougher than Hollywood. Growing up, he never saw any black actors or filmmakers. He remembers John Singleton getting nominated for best director for Boyz in the Hood and that’s why he has always regarded America as the place of opportunity for African-centric filmmakers.

Layla

Layla

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