News Brief

A Film About Japan's First Black Samurai Is Currently In Development

Lionsgate is developing a new action-drama film based on the story of Yasuke, the first black samurai.

A fascinating story about the first black samurai is being adapted into a feature-length action drama by Lionsgate Entertainment.


Shadow and Act has reported that the upcoming film will tell the story of Yasuke—a black samurai who lived in Japan in the 14th century and served under the Japanese ruler Oda Nobunaga. Historical accounts say that Yasuke could have originated from present-day Mozambique, Ethiopia or Angola. It's said that upon his arrival in Japan, people were enamored by his presence, as he was the first black person that many had ever seen. He eventually worked his way up the ranks to become one of Nobunaga's most prized warriors.

Black Samurai is based on the true story of an African whose journey to Japan comes with conflicting background stories,” Gregory Widen, the film's scriptwriter, tells Deadline. “The one I’ve chosen is that he was a slave soldier after the fall of Abysinnian Bengal, a black kingdom run by Ethiopians. He was sold into slavery and found himself in the care of Alessandro Valignano, an Italian missionary. They formed a bond, and when there were complications in Rome, he was sent to Japan and took Yasuke with him. There he met Oda Nobunaga, who was interested in all Western things, and through a series of bizarre events, the Jesuit left Yasukie with the warlord.”

There isn't too much known about Yasuke, but one things that historians have all agreed on, is that he was 100 percent black—I feel obligated to point this out given Hollywood's track record with historically black narratives. It'll be exciting to find out which black actor gets tapped for the role.

Lionsgate hasn't set a release date as of yet, but remain on the lookout for what—if done properly—is sure to be a captivating production.

 

 

Film
"Our Lady of the Nile" image courtesy of TIFF.

These 'Hidden Gems' From Africa & the Diaspora are Now Showing at TIFF

Here are 12 films from across the diaspora to check out before the Toronto International Film Festival ends.

The Toronto International Film Festival, one the largest international film festivals in the world, is currently underway in Canada's largest metropolis.

As with previous years. the festival sees some of the biggest names in the industry gather for premieres of the most noteworthy films released this year, as well as screenings of older titles. Amongst these standout titles are several from filmmakers from African and the diaspora.

READ: The OkayAfrica Guide to Getting Your Movie Into Film Festivals

The folks at TIFF have compiled a list of films that they consider to be "hidden gems" on this year's program and we've chosen twelve of them to highlight below. These exciting features and short films come from filmmakers from a number of countries, including Tunisia, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria and more.

Read more about each selection below, with descriptions and images from TIFF.

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Film
Coodie & Chike at the premiere of 'A Kid From Coney Island.' Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival.

In Conversation with Coodie & Chike: The Celebrated Director Duo on Authentic Storytelling & Their New Documentary About the Life of Stephon Marbury

We chat with Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah on their diverse backgrounds and how they impact the purpose of their mission.

Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah are an oasis of calm in the intense energy of the Tribeca Film Festival. Simmons, a veteran comedian who hails from Chicago, effortlessly works comic relief into conversation. Ozah, a motion graphics designer born to a Nigerian father and a New Orleans-native mother, breaks down and makes sense of the purpose behind the work they've produced over the past 15 years. As we talk, it's clear you can't have one without the other.

You might be familiar with Coodie & Chike, as they're known, through Kanye West's iconic music video for 2004's "Through The Wire"—where the pair incorporated documentary footage they captured of West with mixed media elements. They eventually transitioned into producing impactful documentaries under their production company Creative Control, including the critically acclaimed ESPN 30 for 30, Benji and BET's Muhammed Ali: The People's Champ, which took home the 2016 NAACP Image Award for 'Best Television Documentary.'

Coodie & Chike's latest came from an unexpected opportunity—to direct and write A Kid From Coney Island—a documentary on NBA notable Stephon Marbury. They say it came to be after an initial reach-out from Emmy Award-winning broadcast news and documentary producer Jason Samuels. At first, they were hesitant to hop on the project due to their preconceived notions about Marbury that the media at the time perpetuated before the star left the NBA to play professionally in China. Once they learned that Nina Yang Bongiovi and her producing partner Forest Whitaker were involved, there had to be an amazing story ahead of them.

A Kid From Coney Island is a raw account of Marbury's life and career. You see and hear from Marbury himself in the film through Coodie & Chike quintessential use of archival footage from his past to the present. The duo was also able to tap his family, former teammates, community tastemakers and hip hop icons—who genuinely encapsulated Marbury's impact on the world.

In our conversation below, we learn more about challenges the duo faced while making the documentary, how their diverse backgrounds impact the purpose of what they do and more.

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

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News Brief
Shatta Wale in "Borjor"

Start Your Weekend Early With Shatta Wale's 'Borjor'

The Ghanaian star shares the new track and music video for "Borjor" on his birthday.

Shatta Wale is celebrating his birthday by dropping a new track that's sure to get you in party mode.

"Borjor" is an addictive new song built on a mid-tempo afro-fusion beat work and led by the Ghanaian dancehall heavyweight's vocals about the object of his desire.

The accompanying music video, directed by PKMI, follows Shatta Wale and his friends to a day of swimming and messing around in a pool and mansion.

Shatta Wale recently dropped the level-up anthem "Swizz Bank," he also hopped on the same riddim as Vybz Kartel's hit "Any Weather," produced by Shabdon Records.

Watch the new music video for Shatta Wale's "Borjor" below.

For all the best & latest Ghanaian music, follow our new GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

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Still from YouTube

Michael Kiwanuka Pays Homage to the Black Liberation Movements of the '60s In New Video 'Hero'

The artist's latest single references some of his personal heroes including Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Tupac Shakur and more.

British-Ugandan soul singer Michael Kiwanuka drops another single ahead of the release of his forthcoming album, KIWANUKA.

In "Hero" the singer pays homage to the Black Power and Civil Rights movements of the 1960s and 70s. The music video, directed by CC Wade references several Black leaders and some of the artist's personal heroes including Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King Jr., Sam Cooke, Tupac Shakur, Marvin Gaye and more. It also depicts the FBI's often illegal efforts to stop Black movements and other anti-establishment groups through its Counterintelligence Program, as noted in Rolling Stone.

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