Film
Joseph Otisman and Cynthia Dankwa as Kojo and Esi. Photo by Ofoe Amegavie via 'The Burial of Kojo's' Kickstarter page.

In Conversation: The Cast & Crew of 'The Burial of Kojo' On Representation, Power & Filming in Ghana

We catch up with the minds and faces behind Blitz the Ambassador's 'The Burial of Kojo.'

After the success of Black Panther, Get Out and Moonlight, critics have said that production companies are finally realizing the importance of producing major motion pictures about black life and the African diaspora. But that's flawed. Not only does it give too much credit to production companies that give these movies the green light, it also denies that filmmakers of color have always wanted to tell these stories—and that most already do, but it rarely makes it to the mainstream or Oscars.

A more accurate statement is that movies about black life and the diaspora exist, many more yearn to be made and they are thankfully getting more visibility and love than before. Right now, more than ever, inclusive and intersectional storytelling is necessary to the fabric of our humanity and understanding of how to live more compassionate lives.

Blitz the Ambassador, the musician, writer, director and artist who crowdsourced and created his first full feature film in under a few years, released The Burial of Kojo for limited viewing last month. It's amazing and inspiring that a film of this magnitude was funded by eager fans and hopefuls, but bringing this story to life is more intricate than we will ever comprehend.

From the narrative to the production and Ghanaian cultural complexities, The Burial of Kojo is an essential addition to the conversation on black filmmaking in the Trump era—especially in a nation where films about Africa typically involve war, poverty and despair.

The Burial of Kojo follows Kojo, a man who is tormented by the guilt of accidentally killing his brother, Kwabena's, wife. Kwabena seeks revenge years later by pushing Kojo into an abysmal pit. It is up to his wife and intuitive daughter to try and save him before time runs out.

We spoke with Blitz, cinematographer Michael Fernandez, lead actor Joseph Otisman and lead actress Cynthia Dankwa about the responsibility of African filmmaking, method acting, cultural values about the afterlife and—eating bugs.

Light spoilers ahead—but don't worry, we left out all the pivotal moments in the film for you to experience in time.

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Film
Photo by Ofoe Amegavie via 'The Burial of Kojo's' Kickstarter page.

'The Burial of Kojo' is a Tale of Two Brothers, a Blessed Child and Spiritual Destination

The film, directed and written by Ghanaian artist Blitz the Ambassador, recently made its world premiere at the Urbanworld Film Festival.

I wasn't prepared for the immense feeling of gratitude, wonder and possibility that enveloped me as I entered the theater to view The Burial of Kojo. Just short of a year ago, I remember sharing, supporting and writing about the Kickstarter campaign for Blitz's impending film, while sending wishful vibes out to the universe in hopes that this project will come to fruition. Blitz teased us with stunning photos of a young girl under a shower of golden electric sparks, a car burning below early morning daylight on a monochrome shore, and behind the scenes shots of the jubilant team posing near mines. The mystery and magical realism of the photography only heightened our anticipation of the birth of this film.

At this month's Urbanworld Film Festival, I watched The Burial of Kojo come to life in a sold out theater. From the opening visuals—filled with softly rustling waters, humble homes resting near rivers, bodies painted delicately in brown and sunshine with no desire to abandon—I was immediately transported to the land my mother dreams of and recalls to me in longing details. Ghana. And from the onset, it seems The Burial of Kojo is solely happening here. However, the film is occurring just as much in our psyche as it is in the afterlife and our fantasies. It is happening inside and out, upside and down.

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GIF from Janelle Monae's music video, "I Like That."

Black to the Future II: Afrofuturism Should Be Put Into Practice as Much as It's Consumed—But How?

We close out our month exploring Afrofutures with an in-depth essay on the real possibility of putting Afrofuturism into action.

"I'll love you when there's space, and time."

—Janelle Monae, Dirty Computer

Recently, I've been immersing myself in Afrofuturist ideas, culture and art more than ever, a not-so-secret, long-term act that began as stimulation and imagination, but I hope will evolve into true nerdiness. This immersion includes, but also transcends, the desire to want to see other black people in media and art; I'm looking for answers on how to be a better human, right now—in thought, in movement and in our environments.

I'm seeking a guide on how to make dreams come true. Mandates on how to influence social change, free love, sex and liberation from all isms. Commandments on conjuring up one's true self, amidst the ashes left behind from the fires of cultural standards, systemic oppression and casual discrimination. Answers and apparitions of what the future can be like, for us.

Digesting more Afrofuturist art and media has been extremely accessible lately, more than before, because its visibility has increased. What once was a niche genre that only few can pinpoint is now a pop culture movement that inspires, empowers and amazingly, sells. There have been excellent representations of Afrofuturism across the waves of pop culture this year, from the iconic Black Panther, to the proud emotion picture and album "Dirty Computer," to young adult literature like Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone and transformative art by Lina Iris Viktor and Crowezilla. These manifestations are just the beginning of a winding list of creators who are bending the lines between fact and fantasy, urging us to find the wrinkle within our realities and step into the other side of truth and self-actualization.

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