I can’t recall any film made either by an African American, or an African filmmaker that deals with the sensitive subject of breast cancer, which is why I thought this film by Nigerian filmmaker Udoka Oyeka stood out.
It’s called Living Funeral, and it will make its U.S.
premiere at next month’s Pan African
Film Festival in L.A., before
hitting the film festival circuit elsewhere. It follows a family dealing
with their daughter’s and sister’s terminal breast cancer diagnosis.
According to Oyeka, his film’s focus was to “find
a story that would draw emotions out of people and make them feel what is it
like to live with this disease or love someone who does. We really wanted them
to feel strong emotions because it’s the only way you can really make people
care about anything.”
As for the filmmaker’s background, though he was born in
the U.S., he spent his childhood in Nigeria until he returned to the States
to attend college in Texas.
After graduating he worked for a while as a tax prep and even did some modeling before returning to Nigeria in 2009, where he started
making films, both feature and shorts, though he honestly admits it was a struggle at
first, and still is.
As for Living Funeral, the project was inspired by a friend
of Oyeka’s, Orode Ryan Okpu who runs the Pink Pearl Foundation
breast cancer organization, who had the idea for the film, to raise awareness, and who approached
the filmmaker about making it and became the film’s co-producer.
But as Oyeka says “It might not be an obvious theme for a male
African director to handle, but someone recently pointed out that all my films have
some strong female themes… I grew up surrounded by women my whole life: my
mother and two sisters, but also several aunts and cousins who were living with
us. This made me very comfortable around women.”
And in the filmmaking world, “I have a lot of respect for Ava
DuVernay, a real powerhouse who is taking Black Cinema to the forefront.“
Here’s the trailer for the film: