×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Durban FilmMart Winner Touts ‘Sunshine,’ Ghanaian Cinema

Owusu speaks about strength of Africa's storytelling culture

The Durban FilmMart winners were announced Monday. Young Ghanaian femme helmer Akosua Adoma Owusu’s project won ARTE France’s ARTE International Award, which is worth 6,000 euros ($7,918) for her project, “Black Sunshine.” She hopes to begin shooting her feature in the first quarter of 2014 for a 2015 release. Variety caught up with her ahead of the announcement.

We ran a story at the beginning of the festival about the number of female directors involved here. How do you feel about the opportunities afforded to female directors like yourself?

That’s interesting, because the history of African story-telling has always been deeply-rooted with females being the story-tellers in our culture, and I find it really interesting how now there’s this new wave of African female filmmakers who are now telling stories. And not just specifically in Ghanian culture, but all over, including Kenya and South Africa in general.

How do you feel about making your first feature?

I have a background in making experimental film videos in the fine arts world. As of now, I can’t say I have had too much of a problem or difficulty in making films. There are also a lot of great initiatives out there assisting African story-tellers.

What’s the most exciting thing about being a young filmmaker in Africa?

There’s so many stories that we can be telling. We’re at a place where we have all these resources available to us. There’s a lot of great African talent that is ready to tell our stories, instead of having them filtered through other people. It’s time for us to take over the reins and promote our cultures.

What is the film industry in Ghana like, and where does it stand right now?

The film industry in Ghana is very similar to the Nollywood film model (Nigeria): We’re both Anglophone African countries, and more specifically Ghanian films are very local. The films end up being shown to Africans and the diaspora in the U.K. and U.S., but in terms of traveling to international films festivals, it’s very rare that a Gollywood (Ghanian) film reaches international markets. But there are a lot of new exciting things happening within the Ghanian film industry. For example, the films made in Kumasi in the village are very local — they are comedic — and then you have the films from the city, which are very English and they speak to the middle-class. So I feel there is a divide, but I do feel like there are other stories that can be explored. It seems there are a lot of love stories and stories to entertain. There’s still room for growth.

Is there a cinema-going public?

No. There is one active cinema in Ghana — Silver Bird (in Accra Mall). They show mostly foreign films like big blockbusters. Most Ghanaian films go straight to DVD. Ghanaians mostly watch TV. It’s not common for people to go out to theaters and pay to watch films.

So do people know of you and your work at home?

I’ve just started being well-known in Ghana. I recently won the Africa Movie Academy Award (for Best Short Film), a short film call “Kwaku Ananse.” Before that I felt like a Ghanaian abroad for international audiences, and that win kind of brought me back home and I feel it’s easier to navigate the Ghanaian industry because of that recognition.

How did “Black Sunshine” come about?

It came about as a thesis film at film school, but I realized I didn’t have enough time to produce a feature-length film, so I made a short film called “My White Baby,” that was a documentary with similar themes as “Black Sunshine.” I was also able to workshop this project at Produire au Sud. Then from there I went to different film labs, and now I’m here to pitch it at Durban FilmMart.

Albinism is a big issue in some parts of the continent, where some albinos are even killed for their body parts. Did your research and script development entail interviewing the public?

My film is not like a documentary, (designed to make people) aware of the killings of albinos. My film is a fiction that talks about these issues in a creative way without hitting people over the head about it. I think if we talk about these issues, I could risk creating a negative portrayal. I don’t want to perpetuate these negative pictures of Africa as seen in other films.

What’s it about?

It’s about a black mother who wants to escape her African reality and an albino girl who just wants to fit into her community. It’s about a mother-daughter conflict, which is also visible. I think we got a lot of great feedback (at FilmMart pitching forums). We’re just really happy to be here.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez's 'Criminal' Striptease: How 'Hustlers' Landed the Fiona Apple Hit

    Contrary to what you might be expecting, the number of songs by Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Cardi B in “Hustlers,” their newly released acting vehicle, adds up to … zero. Meanwhile, the standout music sync in a movie that’s full of them belongs to no less likely a choice than Fiona Apple. The scene in [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Dances Toward $32 Million Opening Weekend

    “Hustlers” is eyeing the biggest opening weekend ever for STXFilms, following a Friday domestic ticket haul of $13.1 million from 3,250 theaters. If estimates hold, the stripper saga could take home around $32 million come Sunday, marking the best live-action opening of Jennifer Lopez’s career. “Hustlers” follows a group of former strip club dancers, led [...]

  • Hustlers intimacy coordinator

    Meet the Stripper Consultant Who Gave 'Hustlers' Authenticity, Dignity and Sexual Freedom

    At last week’s Toronto Film Festival premiere of “Hustlers,” an audience of Hollywood heavyweights and Canadian locals applauded as a statuesque woman strutted on stage, rocking six-inch platform heels and a pastel tie-dye bodysuit. This adoration was not for stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu or Keke Palmer, nor was it for the film’s acclaimed writer-director [...]

  • Kristen Stewart

    French Director Olivier Assayas Pays Tribute to Kristen Stewart at Deauville

    French director Olivier Assayas paid tribute to Kristen Stewart, whom he directed in “Clouds of Sils Maria” and “Personal Shopper,” at the Deauville American Film Festival on Friday evening. Stewart received a honorary award in Deauville before the French premiere of Benedict Andrews’s “Seberg” in which the actress stars as Jean Seberg, a French New [...]

  • Liam Gallagher: As It Was

    Film Review: 'Liam Gallagher: As It Was'

    Liam Gallagher is nearly as fascinating a rock ‘n’ roll figure as he thinks he is … which is saying a lot. After the breakup of Oasis, one of the most self-avowedly arrogant stars in pop culture found himself severely humbled, fighting to become relevant again without the help of Noel, his ex-bandmate and, for [...]

  • The Vast of Night

    Toronto Film Review: 'The Vast of Night'

    It’s the first high school basketball game of the season and all of Cayuga, N.M., population 492, is cheering on the Statesmen at the gym. Except for the town’s two brightest kids, Everett (Jake Horowitz) and Fay (Sierra McCormick), who are strolling through the empty darkness to their respective jobs as a radio DJ and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content