Africa First

short film program

AWARD RECIPIENTS

2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012

2011 Award Recipients

  • Oshosheni Hiveluah  |  Namibia

    Born in Luanda, Angola in 1981, Oshoshensi grew up in East Germany for the majority of her childhood. In 1990, she moved to Namibia, directly after the country gained independence from South Africa. She went on to study in Cape Town and began working on film sets. In late 2004, she returned to Namibia and started working in theatre, writing plays and shadowing and assisting theatre directors. In 2005, she wrote her first screenplay for a student filmmaking workshop. Beginning that same year, Oshosheni started working at a film production company where she was involved in the production of international films shooting in Namibia, local documentaries and short films. In 2010, Oshosheni left the production company and started a casting agency called Shooting Stars. Her current focus is making films and running her casting agency.

    How did you hear about Africa First, and what made you apply?
    I heard about it through a producer and knew 2 of the filmmakers who had been awarded with the reward in the past.

    Had you seen the work of earlier Africa First filmmakers? If so, did those films inspire you to apply?
    Yes I did, I saw Abyss Boys by JH Beetge and the sci fi short Pumzi by Wanuri Kahui. Such good work.

    Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
    I was born in Luanda, Angola, then I lived in the GDR for most of my childhood in a boarding school with other Namibian children. I had a very happy kinda chldhood, I was definitely encouraged to explore my childhood, to hone what I was good at, play sports and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, I had an amazing time and most the kids I grew up with have become a family extension of sorts, so I am grateful.

    What was the first movie your remember seeing? 
    The Neverending Story, I think I was around 6 or 7 and it was my first time in a cinema and the experience was unforgettable. That Fuchur character (that flying dog) scared me to bits at first, but I was enchanted by the world of cinema from that day on. I felt like for the 2 hours while I was in the cinema I was living in the story and it was an incredible feeling. And even though I had no idea at the time that this film was a trigger for me to make films one day, it definitely made me fall in love with cinema.

    What was the first film that made you want to be a filmmaker?
    Sarrarouina made me realize that I could also tell stories that I could relate to. Film making especially always seemed like such a foreign concept to me for people who lived in Hollywood and I was merely to be a spectator of it all. I knew I wanted to be able to tell stories and I did that through a lot of different mediums at first, photography, theatre, poetry and when I realized I could tell stories through pictures, it was

    How would you define African Cinema?
    African cinema is not a concept that lives in a forest or on the mountaintop that we visit whenever we get inspired to tell a story. It’s an ever-evolving movement, process that’s always growing, shaping, molding itself. It’s deep within (in the heart, in our society and culture). African cinema consists of the films that tell of the African continent, by people of African descent who take what they see or feel with a desire to see it magnified, scrutinized on the big screen. That’s my definition of African cinema.

    Who are some of your most important influences or heroes—either in film or elsewhere?
    Honestly so many people have influenced me in my life. I am really inspired by strong women who defined stereotypes, who fought for what they believed in, cos they made me want to do what I wanted to do, regardless of whether people said it could not be done.

    Because there are only a handful of women that I know of that make films I try to follow their work closely and I am really influenced and inspired by strong women like Tsitsi Dangaremba, I really also admire Gerry Elsdon, I think she is so amazing and dynamic and spiritual.

    What filmmakers do you most admire—and why?

    It always kind of changes but at the moment I am completely blown away and in admiration of the work of African filmmakers who in the absence of functional film industries still manage to make amazing films. I really like Djo Munga’s work at the moment. It’s inspiring to see that despite circumstances he was able to make this amazing film.

    One of my all time favorite filmmakers is Fatih Akin, I love the way he weaves his Turkish backgrounds into the films he makes, just something spectacular about how he does it and I love the way that his films are honest to the audience I never feel cheated when watching his films.

    One African film that I have always really liked is by Dani Kouyate. Ousmane Sembene has paved a way in African cinema and there are also some South African directors I like. It’s great to know that we can make the films we want to.

    I am also a huge fan of Italian cinema, got to love Frederic Fellini and South American films as well.

    If you couldn’t be a filmmaker, what would you do?
    I would probably still be a storyteller of sorts, since I come from a background of theatre and performing arts I would certainly do something in that line. I also would love to be a novelist or a poet or a painter. All I know is that I was born to be part of the creative African movement and no matter what that’s what I’ll do.

    Read more about Oshosheni » Watch an interview with Oshosheni »

  • Cedric Ido  |  Burkina Faso

    Cedric was born in Stains a small suburban town near Paris In 1983, his parents decided to go back to Africa in Burkina Faso for 5 years. Three months after he got there, he was cast as the child of the female lead in one of the biggest plays in the country. He says that he still have some recollections of the play, some lines and the energy that was sent by the audience, the laughs, the applauses etc. He said that even at this age he felt like he was sharing something with the audience and unconsciously that experience might have been the reason why he wanted to be involved in entertainment.

    In 1988, Back in Paris, a few years later, when he was in middle school, he enrolled in the school’s theatre workshop.  At the Annual Show, he was noticed by a casting director, who cast him in a part in a TV show and introduced him to an agent. Afterwards, Cedric appeared in various TV shows and started to direct his own comedy sketches and shorts with his brother.

    He is now a director, actor and drawer. In 2001 and 2002 he was on stage at (la comedie française) in "Ruy Blas" (Victor Hugo). He was actor in several films such as "Miracle at St-Anna" by Spike Lee (2008). He directs  Flores et Cintigas (2009) and "Un Stains de musique"(2008)  two documentaries. In 2011, he directs and acts in ‘Hasaki ya suda’ a short film Halfway between an African tale and a samourai film.

    How did you hear about Africa First, and what made you apply?
    I had the chance to meet a former applicant of the Africa first program, in Ouagadougou during Fespaco, who told me about the program. I thought it could be a good opportunity to be part of a program gathering other African filmmakers.

    Had you seen the work of earlier Africa First filmmakers? If so, did those films inspire you to apply?
    The first film supported by Africa first I saw, was Tinye So by Daouda Coulibally and then Pumzi. These two films were so different in terms of style and influences. It was obvious that these two directors had made the film they wanted. It came naturally to me that I had to apply and feel free to bring my vision into the program…
     
    Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
    I was born in Stains, a small town in Paris suburbs. In 1983, my parents decided to go back to Africa in Burkina Faso for 5 years. I was enjoying a new found freedom¨ the freedom of wondering around the dry lands for days…I could draw on the sand, the ground was like an infinite piece of paper to me. I can’t remember all the details but I kind of remember some of the sensations I had.

    What was the first movie your remember seeing?
    My mother is a great fan of Indian Films. I remember that every time she needed to get me quiet, she played an Indian film. I am not really sure it was the first one I saw, but one of the film that stroke me the most was “satyam shivam sundaram” by Raj Kapoor.

    What was the first film that made you want to be a filmmaker?
    I don’t think that there is only one film that made me wanted to be a filmmaker… I am actually influenced by many and so everyday.

    How would you define African Cinema?
    Most of the time when I hear people talking about African cinema, I have the feeling that they are talking about a particular genre film. I don’t really think that we can define African cinema as a genre in itself, even though a lot of African films tend to follow the same process…I think that African cinema embodies all type and genre films, and so each director brings his personal vision and influences to a cinema dealing with African issues.

    Who are some of your most important influences or heroes—either in film or elsewhere?
    Cheikh Anta Diop, David Mamet, Frantz fanon, Akira kurozawa.

    What filmmakers do you most admire—and why?
    Kenji Misumi, Spike Lee, Ousmane Sembene…those filmmakers struggled to bring to the light stories and people we weren’t used to see…

    If you couldn’t be a filmmaker, what would you do?
    I would probably be a painter.

    Read more about Cedric »

  • Mark Middlewick  |  South Africa

    Mark is a self-diagnosed film snob who graduated from WITS School Of The Arts in 2009. Since then he has worked as a script reader in Los Angeles and taught film theory back in South Africa. He is currently developing several projects, while making just enough money to support his love for fine food and film.

    How did you hear about Africa First, and what made you apply?
    To tell the truth I can’t remember, but I needed an excuse to kick my lazy creative alter ego into gear.

    Had you seen the work of earlier Africa First filmmakers? If so, did those films inspire you to apply?
    I hadn’t when I applied, but I have since and I must say the bar is particularly high.  It sounds like a cliché, but I truly am honored to be in the midst of such talented people. 

    Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
    I grew up in the suburbs of Johannesburg.  The memories of my childhood are good, but for some reason they’re scored by Andrew Lloyd Webber (thanks, Mom).

    What was the first movie you remember seeing?
    The Land Before Time (a real tear jerker right there).

    What was the first film that made you want to be a filmmaker?
    Apocalypse Now.  I remember having to analyze it for a project at school, and after going into such great detail my 9th grade teacher thought I’d plagiarized the entire thing.  So I took that as a sign.

    How would you define African Cinema?
    I don’t think you can define African cinema.  If anything, trying to define such an all-encompassing term can be crippling to one’s creativity, especially when you’re an African filmmaker and have to carry with you a certain burden of responsibility anyway. 

    Who are some of your most important influences or heroes—either in film or elsewhere?
    The French New Wave as well as New Hollywood have immeasurably influenced my approach to filmmaking, and I always strive to create films that are as deeply personal, brave and unique as films from these golden eras of auteurship.

    What filmmakers do you most admire—and why?
    Gus Van Sant, Jean-Luc Godard, Martin Scorsese, Sofia Coppola, Woody Allen, Michelangelo Antonioni, Charlie Kaufman, Richard Linklater, Alexander Payne, Paul Schrader, Wong Kar-Wai, Terence Malick…  The list could go on.  I think the reason these particular filmmakers come to mind is that they all have distinctive voices that resonate within me.  Even if they produce a ‘bad’ film, they are still entertaining to watch because these filmmakers are unfaltering in their desire to create something original and true to themselves.

    If you couldn’t be a filmmaker, what would you do?
    I’ve always wanted to have my own coffee shop.  Then I could discuss existentialist questions with little old ladies to my heart’s content.

    Read more about Mark » Watch an interview with Mark »

  • Akosua Adoma Owusu  |  Ghana

    Akosua Adoma Owusu (b. 1/1/1984) is an award-winning filmmaker and artist of Ghanaian descent. She received her MFA in the Schools of Film & Video and Fine Art at the California Institute of the Arts, and her BA at the University of Virginia. A protegé of prolific filmmaker Kevin Everson, Owusu's films are richly informed by traditions in avant-garde filmmaking and African storytelling.

    Owusu's short film “Me Broni Ba” (“My White Baby”) garnered critical acclaim at over 60 international film festivals, including Rotterdam, the BFI London Film Festival, Visions du Reel, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Cannes Film Festival. Following the success of "Me Broni Ba," Owusu's next short work, “Drexciya”, was inspired by a myth of the Detroit-based techno band.  It was praised at the 2011 Tarifa African film festival ‘for its radical nature’  and ‘poetic insight’ and went on to win Best Experimental Film at the Expresion en Corto Film Festival in Guanajuato, Mexico.

    Owusu's professional experiences include Development and Production internships at Echo Lake Productions and HBO Films. For the latter, she received an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences grant to provide post-production assistance on Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair. She has participated as a directing talent at the Berlinale Film Festival’s Talent Campus and the Durban Talent Campus in South Africa. She was also invited to the Produire au Sud workshop in Nantes, France.  She is currently developing her first feature, “Black Sunshine”, in Ghana. The film, about a young African albino girl, is an international co-production with musician Salif Keita, his Salif Keita Foundation, and Arizona Films based in France. Most recently, Owusu is attached to direct a US feature, “Showing Roots”, written by actress Susan Batten of the soap opera One Life To Live.

    How did you hear about Africa First, and what made you apply?
    I first heard about the Africa First program when I attended the New York African Film Festival in 2010 for my screening of "Me Broni Ba." The festival director made arrangements for filmmakers to visit the Focus Features studio and learn more about their new initiative. I got to hang out with Wanuri Kahiu, one of the first year winners in Africa First, and I was encouraged to apply. My script did not make the cut on my first attempt, but I applied again with a new project and am overwhelmed with joy that I was selected.

    Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
    I am noted in the local paper as the first child born on New Year’s Day in Northern Virginia in 1984.  My father was in Ghana preparing to bring my older siblings from Ghana to the US when I was born.  As a Ghanaian-American, I am a product of two very distinct cultures, and as an artist I am always interested in matters of cultural identity. I am the only member of my family born in America, and I mostly grew up in Northern Virginia with occasional visits to Ghana in my childhood. These days, I live between the US and the village of Kumawo in the Asante Region of Ghana where my parents are from.


    How would you define African Cinema?
    I feel the fascinating thing about African cinema is that it resists any easy attempts at definition. Nollywood and Ghanaian video films exist right alongside Francophone, North African, and Arab cinemas. And perhaps the only constant in African cinema it is in constant fluctuation – a relentless evolution. The moving image, which is still a very new medium, is an extension of an oral storytelling tradition that continues to exert influence. African filmmaking has existed for as long as we were even allowed to use the medium itself.  At its best and most powerful, African cinema is about Africans telling their own stories and adapting that rich history of storytelling to the screen. It goes well beyond using the African continent as a mere backdrop or as a vessel to contain another culture's story. I count myself among the members of a new wave of African filmmakers who are using film to return to our roots and reclaim our history. 

    What was the first movie you remember seeing?
    I can't remember! But I know it was either The Princess Bride or The Neverending Story on television.

    What was the first film that made you want to be a filmmaker?
    “La Noire de…” by Ousmane Sembène. It’s a classic. That is all.

    What filmmakers do you most admire—and why?
    Too many to list! But some of my favorite filmmakers and styles include: Nouvelle Vague or French New Wave Cinema, Kwaw Ansah, Jean-Luc Godard, Claire Denis, Chantal Ackerman, Betzy Bromberg, Sergei Dvortsevoy, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Leonard Rentel Helmrich, Dijbril Diop Mambety, Mustapha Dao, and Len Lye.  Some films I like are: Re-Assemblage by Trinh, T. Minh-ha, Hair Piece by Ayoka Chenzira, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Il deserto rosso, Terrence Malick’s Badlands, Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven, Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, Ca Twiste Popenguine by Moussa Sene Absa, Waiting for Happiness by Abderrahmane Sissako, Dodeskaden by Akira Kurosawa.   I’m also a fan of works which bridge the gap between documentary and fiction like the work of my good friend, Mexican helmer Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio.

    Who are some of your most important influences or heroes—either in film or elsewhere?
    Unquestionably, my hero is filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson. I have had the opportunity to work with Kevin for over seven years since my undergraduate studies, and he has remained a dedicated mentor and friend throughout my art career. Kevin initiated my interest in experimental 16mm filmmaking, and he set an example for me to emulate as someone successfully navigating both the film and fine art worlds. 
    Another hero of mine is photographer Lorna Simpson, whom I met in my late teens and who continues to be a major source of inspiration. Isaaic Julien, Steve McQueen, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, the “Olympia” painting of 1893 by Edouard Manet, speaks directly to my soul.  There are other fine artists who have inspired me….Again, too many to list!

    If you could cast anyone in the world, whom would you want?
    Lisa Bonet or Lauryn Hill. Both of these women have always struck me as authentic and interesting. I would love the chance to collaborate with either of them on a multi-layered character.

    If you couldn't be a filmmaker, what would you do?
    I think I probably would have studied architecture or the culinary arts. As African immigrants with very high expectations, my parents did not approve of my film and art career, and they urged me to pursue a degree in medicine, so maybe I would have done that. But beyond those, and as long as we're fantasizing, just globetrotting or being a housewife to my lover in an isolated village away from any form of modern technology don't sound so bad either!

    Read more about Akosua » Watch an interview with Akosua »

  • Zelalem Woldemariam  |  Ethiopia

    Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Zelalem Woldemariam started his career as a marketing professional gathering over 10 years experience in different organizations. In 2006 he wrote, directed and produced a full-length feature film entitled "The 11th Hour". In Ethiopia, the film stood out from other Ethiopian films for its high production value.  The film also obtained critical acclaim for its compelling story from international audiences as well as the film festivals it participated in, including:  Cannes International Film Festival-Cinema De Sud France; New York African Film Festival, USA; Zanzibar International Film Festival, Tanzania; Amakula African Film Festival, Uganda; Africa in the Picture, The Netherlands Cinema Africa Film Festival in Amsterdam; Africa in the Picture film festival in Sweden. 

    In 2010, Zelalem directed and produced a 14-minute short film entitled “Lezare” (For Today) which is aboutthe efforts of a community to take an action that will have a lasting impact against global warming, but their actions are thwarted by an individual’s instinct for survival. “Lezare” won several outstanding awards and honors.

    How did you hear about Africa First, and what made you apply?
    I learned about Africa First at a film festival and thought it was a great chance to be connected to an international film network, get advice from experienced film professionals and be affiliated with a well-respected studio. 

    Had you seen the work of earlier Africa First filmmakers? If so, did those films inspire you to apply?
    Yes, I had a chance to go to the New York Africa Film Festival in 2009 and I watched the films from Africa First winners followed by Q&A with the directors.  I was very impressed by the films and the program so I decided to apply.

    Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
    I grew up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  I have very fond memories of my childhood.  I enjoyed having fun, laughing and discovering new things.  I used to try to understand people’s characters by observing them closely.  I also enjoyed telling stories to my friends.

    What was the first movie your remember seeing?
    I vaguely remember watching the Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon at my friend’s house.

    What was the first film that made you want to be a filmmaker?
    There is no single film that made me want to be a filmmaker - it was a cumulative effect.  For example the BBC documentaries that I saw on TV about the 1984 famine in Ethiopia made me realize how powerful films are; even to this day Ethiopia is known for its famine because of these films even though the reality has changed a lot.  Also when I watched local Ethiopian films, when the industry was just starting in the early 2000s, I realized how young our industry is and I wanted to share Ethiopian stories through films that were made for both local and international audiences. 

    How would you define African Cinema?
    African cinema has its own flavor, but it isn’t just one style.  Since there are so many peoples and cultures in Africa there are countless ways of telling stories. Overall I think African film is more poetic and the stories have more depth.

    Who are some of your most important influences or heroes—either in film or elsewhere?
    I admire the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. His film Rashomon, made a big impression on me.  I was impressed by his story telling and cinematography techniques, especially considering the time period in which he shot the film.  Also, our famous Ethiopian athlete, Haile Gebrselassie has had influence on my ambition to achieve and tell captivating stories.  Haile won two gold Olympic medals and set 27 world records for long distance running.  He believes that everything is possible if you work hard and think positive, and he showed us it’s true.

    What filmmakers do you most admire—and why?
    In addition to Akira Kurosawa, I admire Quentin Tarantino for his ability to surprise his audience with innovative screenplays and style. 

    If you couldn’t be a filmmaker, what would you do?
    I would start a creative business that would allow me to make good money and live a comfortable life.

    Read more about Zelalem » Watch an interview with Zelalem »