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Still from 'The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.' Photo by Ilze Kitshoff, courtesy of Sundance Institute.

These 4 African Directors Are Set To Premiere Feature Films at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Institute has announced the first group of films that will grace the big screen at the premier film festival next year.

The Sundance Institute couldn't end the year without giving us a sneak peek at what to anticipate for the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Screenings will be hosted in Park City, Salt Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort from January 24 to February 3, 2019.

Out of 4,018 feature-length submissions, 112 have been selected to premiere at the festival representing 33 countries. Out of the 112, we've identified the African talent who will be presenting new work next year.

Check out the synopses of the four films helmed by African directors from Sundance below, and check out the full list here.


Chinonye Chukwu | Clemency

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Years of carrying out death row executions have taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams. As she prepares to execute another inmate, Bernadine must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.

Cast: Alfre Woodard, Aldis Hodge, Richard Schiff, Wendell Pierce, Richard Gunn, Danielle Brooks.

World Premiere

Julius Onah | Luce

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

A married couple is forced to reckon with their idealized image of their son, adopted from war-torn Eritrea, after an alarming discovery by a devoted high school teacher threatens his status as an all-star student.

Cast: Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Tim Roth, Norbert Leo Butz.

World Premiere

Shola Amoo | The Last Tree

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Femi is a British boy of Nigerian heritage who, after a happy childhood in rural Lincolnshire, moves to inner London to live with his mum. Struggling with the unfamiliar culture and values of his new environment, teenage Femi has to figure out which path to adulthood he wants to take.

Cast: Sam Adewunmi, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Tai Golding.

World Premiere

Chiwetel Ejiofor | The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Against all the odds, a thirteen year old boy in Malawi invents an unconventional way to save his family and village from famine. Based on the true story of William Kamkwamba.

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maxwell Simba, Lily Banda, Noma Dumezweni, Aissa Maiga, Joseph Marcell.

World Premiere (Read more on the film here)

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For the complete rundown on black talent to keep an eye on at Sundance 2019, check out Shadow and Act's roundup here.

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

'The Burial of Kojo' Is Ghana's First Golden Globe Entry

Blitz the Ambassador's debut film is being considered for the Best Foreign Language Film nomination at the 2020 Golden Globes.

Blitz Bazawuke, also known as Blitz the Ambassador's critically-acclaimed directorial debut The Burial of Kojo is officially in the running for a Golden Globe nomination, making it the first Ghanaian film ever to be considered for a nomination.

The musician, writer and director took to Twitter on Friday to share the news along with a picture of the list of contenders for the Golden Globe's "Best Foreign Language Film" award, which also includes Senegal's Atlantics (which is also in the running to become the first Senegalese film nominated for an Oscar) and Malawi's The Boy Who Harnessed Wind. Ninety-five films from 65 different countries are being considered for nomination in the category.

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

The mystical and visually striking movie, which premiered at the Urban World Festival in NYC last year, tells the story of two brothers through the eyes of its young protagonist Esi, played by Cynthia Dankwa. The film takes viewers on a surreal journey exploring family bonds and the complexity of life and death. "Usually movies about Africa are very dystopian, more about survival mode. We never get a chance to break down our people," the director told OkayAfrica in an in-depth interview last year. "We just end up with a war, and in a war you can't show nuance in family relationships—the film is about survival. The hardest thing to do is humanize a people that has little history in cinema. Hopefully this film brings father and daughter closer, especially back home."

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Nigeria's Oscar Hopeful, 'Lionheart,' Has Been Disqualified Because It's in English

According to the Academy, nominees in its Best International Feature Film Category must "have a predominately non-English dialogue track," and 'Lionheart' despite being an unmistakably Nigerian film, doesn't fit the bill.

Nigeria's hopes of earning its first Oscar nomination were cut short today after the academy disqualified Genevieve Nnaji's directorial debut, Lionheart from consideration in the Best International Feature Film category, The Wrap reports.

According to the Academy the film does not meet the language requirement necessary for inclusion in the category since it was filmed mostly in English. Despite the film having some Igbo parts, an Academy rule—which states that films must have "a predominantly non-English dialogue track" in order to be considered for the category—makes it ineligible.

The decision comes as a disappointment considering it was Nigeria's first ever entry to the Oscars and it was one of the record-breaking 29 films out of 93 originally submitted this year that were directed by women. There were a record-breaking 10 films from the continent submitted this year, including Senegal's Atlantics and Ghana's Azali.

According to a report from The Wrap, it seems the film may have been disqualified before voters in the Best International Feature Film category ever even got a chance to see it. The film was reportedly supposed to screen for voters on Wednesday, before the news of its disqualification was announced via email on Monday.

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Interview
Merry-Lynn. Photo courtesy of the artist.

You Need This Merry-Lynn EP In Your Life

Interview: Rising R&B newcomer Merry-Lynn's Petrichor EP is a breath of fresh air.

Iyere-Eke Merrylynn Ehinomen, also known as Merry-Lynn, is a rising singer and songwriter based in Abuja, Nigeria. She recently released her debut EP, Petrichor, which presents a masterful blend of reggae and R&B with a modern twist across its six tracks.

Drawing you in with its resonant bass line and alluring vocals, EP opener "Skin," is a major head-bopper. Merry-Lynn pours her heart out over the rippling guitar chords singing "When you gonna call me baby?/ Or don't you think about me lately?" Before you know it you're midway through the sultry and euphoric cut, "Temptation," and fully locked-in to this musical experience.

In "Boy Tears" the young singer, who was born in 1997, graces us with vivid lyricism and audacious delivery as she rhymes "too" and "fooled," enriching each line with subtle nuance. She also enlists Nigerian hitmaker King Perryy on the melancholic heartbreak tune "911"—a remixed version of the original track that was released earlier in the year

Merry-Lynn's decision to work exclusively with Nigerian producer Veen on the project seemingly enabled her to truly experiment and find the distinctive sound that sets her apart from the crowd. Emotionally rich and enlightened, this tape is a smooth sonic ride for any lover of good music. There's no doubt that, with Petrichor, Merry-Lynn has delivered a reliably-solid debut.

We got to know the R&B newcomer a little bit more in a recent interview below.

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Tiwa Savage "Owo Mi Da" cover.

Tiwa Savage Drops Two New Songs 'Owo Mi Da' & 'Attention'

The Nigerian star has shared two new bangers—"Owo Mi Da" and "Attention"—a day early due to leaks.

Tiwa Savage has returned with not-one-but-two new singles, "Owo Mi Da" and "Attention."

While the tracks were originally slated to drop tomorrow, Wednesday, the Nigerian superstar rushed released them due to leaks. "You guys couldn't wait na so my songs don leak o .... FUCK IT OUT NOW," Tiwa wrote on her social pages.

The addictive and upbeat "Owo Mi Da" was co-written by fellow Nigerian hitmaker Olamide and produced by Pheelz.

Video: Tiwa Savage On Female Artists Having to Work Twice As Hard

The smoother "Attention" is a song aimed at a man who isn't taking enough notice of his woman. " I guarantee all the ladies will know the lyrics to this one word for word," Tiwa wrote about the track. It was produced by Blaqjerzee.

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