Courtesy of Hawanatu Bangura

Meet the Sierra Leonean filmmaker Introducing Australian Audiences to Fresh African Perspectives

Hawanatu Bangura is the Sierra-Leonean-Australian filmmaker using whiteness and beauty ideals and social work as a source of inspiration in her filmmaking

I first met Hawanatu Bangura in Sydney at an industry panel discussion on the lack of diverse Muslim representation in Australian screen culture. Later we shared stories about our experiences growing up in vastly different parts of Africa, laughed and made jokes about awkward cultural exchanges we've both experienced, often being the only non-whites and Muslims within our circles in Australia. In between the banter, we talked about our mutual love of films—her energy amplifying when she spoke about the way storytelling has shaped her. I clearly heard the echoes of determination and sensed her conviction, as she expressed to me she wanted to make films for social change.

Fast forward to 2018: "I want to tell stories about my community that mirrors our diverse experiences and not leave it up to the majority to continue telling our stories from their perspectives," she tells me in a phone call. It's this unassuming conviction that underscores the tone of her films at the same time eminently drawing audiences into a world they wouldn't otherwise experience.

With 6 short films under her belt, Sierra Leonean Australian filmmaker Hawanatu Bangura, is one to watch. Her latest film I am Black and Beautiful screened at the Toronto International Film Festival for Kids last March. She's currently part of the prestigious Screen Producer's Australia: Ones to Watch Program. In addition, Bangura's developing her next two projects; a documentary on the experiences of people with a disability from non-English speaking backgrounds and a dramedy web series set in an African Australian female hair salon. On top of her creative pursuits, Bangura is a qualified social worker currently working as an advocate for people with a disability.

Bangura developed an appetite for filmmaking in high school after being exposed to the medium through a program at a local youth centre in Sydney. However, her love of storytelling ignited during her childhood in Sierra Leone. She often sat with her family by the fireplace, listening to stories about moral dilemmas which were used as a means of teaching values and ethics. Later on, storytelling became an escape during times of adversity. In recent years, her social work has had the strongest impact on her as a filmmaker.

Courtesy of Hawanatu Bangura

"My experience as a social worker plays a major role in my approach to filmmaking," says Bangura. "I make films about social issues that sometimes directly affects the people I work with who are usually marginalised."

Despite Australia's 40 000 years of Indigenous history and the richness of it's cultural diversity resulting from immigration, in 2018, the country's mainstream media is still markedly culturally homogenous (insert white). Bangura's "I am Black and Beautiful" is a documentary about a group of African Australian women who explore the impact of western beauty ideals on their identity. Seven women with origins from different parts of Africa reveal the impacts that whiteness and it's cultural constructs of beauty has had on them as individuals growing up in a predominantly white society.

"I wanted to make a film that will inspire young black women to embrace their black beauty," says Bangura. "I've had many conversations with black women with shared experiences about feeling insecure as a black girl due to their hair, dark skin, etc. I became more curious about it, as I was one of those girls."

The script was born from a workshop to initiate dialogue with African Australian women about their experiences growing up as black girls in Australia. Shot in black and white, these stark visuals are married with an ethereal music composition capturing the rawness, at the same time balancing the sensitivity of the women's experiences and its influence on their self-images and personal identity. The filmmaker weaves into the narrative images, Afrofuturist in tone, of young black women in traditional face makeup, dancing, alluding to internal struggles, progress and re-imagining ideas of beauty.

"It's suddenly an exciting time to be a female filmmaker in Australia as things are starting to shift," she says. "People from marginalised communities are now being more included in the film industry. However, the competition to attain these opportunities is still high. I've started to make films that resonate with me instead of waiting for success that's defined by other's standards."

The filmmaker's next creative developments include a short documentary, still in it's infant stage, which will explore the triumphs and challenges of people with a disability from non-English speaking backgrounds in Australia.

The other project, Afro Sistahs, a dramedy web series delving into the lives of four young African-Australian women who meet regularly in the 'Afro Sistahs' hair salon in Western Sydney, supporting each other through everyday experiences, cross cultural barriers and bad hair days. The proof of concept is scheduled for release in the second half of the year.

"The web series stems from our desire to bring to the Australian audience a humorous, thought-provoking and sassy story that partly reflects our lives and captures the diversity within the African-Australian population".

"I'm at a stage in my career where I feel valued and seen. I want to tell bold heroine stories that will inspire young women to dream big!".

Check out Afro Sistahs on Instagram and on Facebook.

Scene from 'Crazy World' Courtesy of TIFF

'Crazy World' is the Ugandan Action Film Poised to Bring Wakaliwood to the World

We caught up with 'Uganda's Tarantino,' I.G.G Nabwana to talk the making of his new kung-fu kids flick

"The best kidz movie eva!" As the opening credits roll, the voice of V.J. Emmie, the Video Joker, cuts in with flawless comedic timing. "He's the best director in the world...and father."

It's fast, it's funny, and the action scenes are choreographed with a sense of style and panache, all while clearly shot on a shoestring budget. V.J. Emmie's voice delivers a running commentary that translates, explains, and comments on the action of the film with the timing of a stand-up comic. Uganda's Wakaliwood productions, the brainchild of IGG Nabwana, is ready to take on the world after a well received set of screenings in the Toronto International Film Festival's (TIFF) Midnight Madness series. Crazy World was TIFF's closing movie.

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Courtesy of TIFF

This Nigerian Magic-Realist Film Based in Igbo Tradition is Burning Up the Festival Circuit

We spoke to Abba Makama to get the story behind The Lost Okoroshi, his phenomenal new film about ancestral spirits that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Lost Okoroshi, by Nigerian filmmaker Abba Makama, takes audiences on a trippy ride into the clash between traditional and contemporary cultures in modern day Lagos. The movie made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September 2019.

Raymond, played by Seun Ajayi, leads a conventional and not particularly ambitious life with his wife in a suburb of Lagos. By day, he's a security guard who dreams of escaping his daily commute into town by moving to the country. But every night, he is plagued by dreams where he is chased by the Okoroshi, ancestral spirits in the Igbo tradition who appear in costume in a masquerade. He consults the chief in his traditional village, who tells him to stop running from them. One morning, he awakes to find that he has been transformed into one of the spirits in full masquerade costume. What then, comes next?

The mood veers from dreamy to tragi-comedy as the unfortunate Raymond tries to re-insert himself into the life of a married, nondescript security guard with little success. As he journeys through the city, it's in the reactions of those around him, from the gritty, funny sex workers who accept him without question, to the IGBO People's Secret Society of Heritage Restoration and Reclamation (IPSSHRR) and their battle to lay claim to the traditions he represents, that flesh out the conflicts of contemporary Nigerian society. Much of the humor comes from Makama's finely developed sense of the ridiculous, along with a sly satire, with the realistic elements to add the darker edge.

The sky is acid-tinged with color, and the contours are realistic, from the rubble of the streets leading to Lagos to the flashy nightclubs and the slums where the new Okoroshi dances for money. A cool soundtrack veers from electronic mood music to contemporary Afrobeat, adding depth to the surreal feel of the film.


The Lost Okoroshi is Makama's second feature after the acclaimed Green White Green, which premiered at TIFF in 2016. Born in Jos, Nigeria, he first studied business management in Nigeria. "In 2004, I transferred because of university strikes that would go on for ages," he tells OkayAfrica. He continued his studies in business at the State University of New York, although he had already begun to pursue film. "I was always an artist," he says.

He studied film by voraciously watching his roommate's DVDs in their apartment. "I figured out the difference between good films and bad films." He began by making shorts, and says he often surprised his film friends when he told them his major was business. "I knew how to edit. I know all the nuances of film making. I could do it as well as Nollywood."

Even his father was impressed with the passion and dedication he had for film. "I told him of my dreams. I told him I wanted to put Nigeria on the map." After graduation, went on to study film at New York University through a three-month intensive. He landed a brief internship in New York City, and then took his knowledge back home. "I went back to Lagos and started hustling."

Some acting and production gigs followed, along with shorts Direc-toh in 2011, and Party of Ministers in 2012. Makama calls a 2014 documentary for Al-Jazeera, Nollywood, his big break. His 2016 debut feature, released as Green White Green (And All the Beautiful Colours in My Mosaic of Madness,) is available on Netflix. Making the jump to features is a big move, but he was encouraged when the Tribeca Film Festival contacted him before the film was even finished, based only on a trailer they'd seen. While the timing wasn't right for Tribeca, it gave him the courage to submit to TIFF.

The idea for The Lost Okoroshi came from childhood memories. He would travel with his family to their ancestral village, where they held the masquerade of the Okoroshi. Women and children were not allowed to view it directly, so he remembers it as an exciting event he peered at from a crack in the door. "When I got older, what I realized was yo, he's just a guy in a suit," he laughs. Still, the idea of masquerade—of donning a mask and actually becoming someone or something different—stuck with him.

Courtesy of TIFF

As he got older, too, Makama studied the work of Carl Jung, and the notion of universal archetypes added even more resonance to the idea of the Okoroshi and the masquerade. "It all comes from the same place."

The characters in the movie ring true, and much of it comes from direct observation. The cheerful sex worker who likes to work afternoons so she can watch TV at night was based on someone Makama met. "I spoke to her at length." Some of her actual lines are included in the script. IPSSHRR, the tribal chief, and their lengthy meetings discussing traditional culture and values around a big table came from co-writer Africa Ukoh and a trip to one such meeting with his father, a tribal chief.

In addition to directing, Makama serves as editor, producer, and co-writer of the screenplay. The film also stars Judith Audu, Tope Tedela, Ifu Ennada, and Chiwetalu Agu, with dialog in Igbo, Pidgin English, and English, with subtitles. After its run in Toronto, the movie will make its European premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019, then on to another festival in Stockholm, with the Lights, Camera, Africa film festival in Lagos at the end of September, along with other screenings planned.

With its blend of magic realism, comedy and tragedy, and art house values, Makama sees The Lost Okoroshi as part of a new wave of Nigerian film that aims to go beyond the established—albeit highly successful—tradition of rom coms. "It's the next stage of Nollywood cinema," Makama says. According to him, it's just the start. "There is an array of artistic films coming out," he says. "This is something we've been fantasizing about."

(Photo Courtesy of DIARRABLU)

Meet the Senegalese Designer Making Math Chic

Diarra Bousso uses algorithms to create designs for her line DIARRABLU.

Who knew that math and fashion could work together so seamlessly? Apparently Diarra Bousso did, the self-described "Creative Mathematician" and mastermind behind DIARRABLU. The Senegalese serial entrepreneur and multidisciplinary artist left a career of trading on Wall Street to pursue design and it paid off. She has just been awarded a coveted spot as the Designer in Residence at the San Francisco Fashion Incubator for her innovative use of equations and algorithms in her beautiful designs.

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(Photo by Emma McIntyre/BAFTA LA/Getty Images for BAFTA LA)

Daniel Kaluuya Is Producing a Live-Action 'Barney' Movie with Mattel

Yes, you read that correctly.

In a move that absolutely no one saw coming, Oscar-nominated actor Daniel Kaluuya is set to produce a live-action Barney movie in conjunction with Mattel Films. The Hollywood Reporter first broke the story.

Kaluuya will co-produce the film as part of his 59% production banner, which signed a first-look deal with Paramount back in May. Speaking on his involvement with the project and the impact of Barney & Friends, Kaluuya had this to say: "Barney was a ubiquitous figure in many of our childhoods, then he disappeared into the shadows, left misunderstood. We're excited to explore this compelling modern-day hero and see if his message of 'I love you, you love me' can stand the test of time."

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