Five Noteworthy Filmmakers Reinventing the Industry
Film remains a powerful, ubiquitous force within human cultures in the 21st century. Significantly, it has provided a lens for society to see and sympathise with the marginalised. In this piece, we highlight the African filmmakers who are portraying Blackness, without the usual stereotypes.
- Ifeoma Nkiruka Chukwuogo
Ifeoma Nkiruka Chukwuogo is a Nigerian writer and director. She was born in Warri and raised in Port Harcourt (both in Nigeria). After earning a B.Sc. in Communication Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, she went on to the New York Film Academy, where she gained an M.A. in Film and Media Production. Chukwuogo stirred up Nollywood with Bariga Sugar, a film that explores the friendship between a little boy and girl who are born to sex workers and raised in a brothel. This acclaimed work, set in the 90s, is revolutionary, as it dissects sex work, poverty, and its limitations on identity. Chukwuogo is able to create a grey area behind these complexities—a rare trait in Nollywood—which proves her relevance in contemporary Nigerian cinema.
- Andrew Dosunmu
Andrew Dosunmu is a renowned photographer, filmmaker, and creative director. Though raised in Nigeria, he started out his career as a design assistant for Yves Saint Laurent in Paris before moving to the United States. Dosunmu is an artist who tells stories with visuals. His diverse ability in creating imagery for music videos, feature and documentary films, as well as creative campaigns, is nothing short of extraordinary. The notable indie film Mother of George is an outstanding achievement. It explores the narrative of immigration in the story of two lovers who struggle to maintain their bond in a new country, at the same time highlighting the nostalgia they both feel towards their Yoruba culture.
- Wanuri Kahiu
Wanuri Kahiu is a Kenyan film director, producer, and author with several awards and nominations. She won the awards for best director, best screenplay, and best picture at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009 for her dramatic feature film From a Whisper. And more recently, Kahiu disrupted the Kenyan film industry and society with the release of one of the most anticipated films to come out of Africa: Rafiki. The film delves into themes around same-sex relationships, womanhood, and love, concepts that have never been fully explored in African cinema.
- Chinonye Chukwu
Chinonye Chukwu is a Nigerian-American film director who was born in Rivers State. She was recently announced the director of the forthcoming film adaptation of A Taste of Power, a memoir by Elaine Brown. Brown was a former leader of the Black Panthers, a political organisation formed during the civil rights era in the US. Chukwu’s independent filmmaking has produced a solid body of work, which includes critically acclaimed films like Clemency, Alaskaland, Dust, and Bottom. The director has made history as the first Black woman to win the U.S. Grand Jury Prize in the festival’s 35-year existence. The stellar director Ryan Coogler won the prize in 2013 for his movie Fruitvale Station.
- Lola Okusami
Lola Okusami is a producer, writer, and director who works extensively in TV/Film production across Africa and the United States. Her expertise in the industry has enabled her to adapt to the pros and cons of producing content around the world. Gone Nine Months is a short film set in the 90s that depicts the restrictiveness of married life for most Nigerian women. Agnes Olajuwon is driven to explore different career paths but is limited by an overbearing husband and an unfortunate occurrence among her children. The strength of the film lies in revealing how African conceptions of femininity limit women to prescribed gender roles. Alessandro Mastroianni created an original soundtrack for the film—an indication that Okusami means business and is here to stay.
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