Continuing on with the series… but first, as always, a recap, for those just joining us. You can obviously skip this part and jump right into the interview below.
Announced last fall, the 5 filmmakers selected for the next class (2011) of Focus Features’ Africa First program were Oshosheni Hiveluah (from Namibia); Cedric Ido (from Burkina Faso); Mark Middlewick (from South Africa); Akosua Adoma Owusu (from Ghana); and Zelalem Woldemariam (from Ethiopia).
For those unfamiliar with the program… launched in 2009, Africa First was created “to foster and develop long-term relationships with some of the most promising up-and-coming filmmakers from continental Africa.“
The aim is that, through financial support of the program and mentorship provided by the Focus Features Africa First Advisory Board, to bring African filmmakers into an environment that will allow them to grow as filmmakers with an international audience. Each year, five filmmakers are awarded $10,000 each for production on a narrative short film made in continental Africa.
Kisha Cameron-Dingle, producer of such such projects as Spike Lee’s 2000 film, Bamboozled, and the 2005 TV drama about Rwandan genocide, Sometimes in April, runs the Africa First program for Focus Features, and her company,Completion Films, has a first-look and consulting deal with the company.
As well as on-site work in Africa, the progam includes a weekend of workshops in New York City with the program’s international advisory board of experts in African cinema.
We posted an into to the program interview with Kisha a few weeks ago (read it HERE if you haven’t; you’re strongly encouraged to do so); and as I promised, interviews with the 5 new filmmakers selected for the new current class (who are likely in production on their films right now, or soon to be), as well as their advisers, were forthcoming.
I’ve already posted 6 entries – 3 filmmakers and 3 advisers.
Here’s my chat with the 4th filmmaker, Cedric Ido from Burkina Faso, whose 25-minute award-winning short film titled Hasaki Ya Suda (a short that helped get him into the 2011 Berlinale Talent Campus, as well as a slot amongst the fourth class of Focus Features’ Africa First filmmaker program) I previously featured on S&A.
In my conversation with him, Cédric talked about being influenced by Samurai movies of yesteryear, especially those from the master himself, Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Yohimbo to name 3); Cédric is also a superhero fanboy, and plans to make films about black people that incorporate unlikely/unexpected elements, and that are within genres that historically and still currently ignore the contributions of people of African descent.
His Focus Features Africa First project (which he received $10,000, as is customary, to help produce) is titled Twaaga (in English, Invincible); the film will blend live action and animation in what will be a story about a young boy’s quest to become a superhero.
Your name, country, and a little bit about yourself?
My name is Cedric Ido and I’m from Burkina Faso and I live partly in France. My project is called Twaaga, it means brave, invincible, the language in Burkina. It’s about a little boy who wants to be a superhero and the story takes place in the late 80’s, in 1985 and there was a special political situation.
You’re going to shoot in Burkina Faso?
Yes, I want to shoot in Burkina Faso. That would be the best.
It’s something that takes place in the 80’s, so I’m assuming it’s going to be a period piece and there might be some challenges in setting, production design. This is your first film?
No, It’s not.
Okay, a little on your background?
I’m actually a trained actor, and started as an actor and, as many actors, get disappointed with that. So I went to directing and it was pretty natural. I started with some comedy sketches with my brother who is a director and actor as well [Jacky Ido]. It was pretty natural and it evolved, so he shot my first short film. It was a co-direction with a friend and the second one was Hasaki Ya Suda the one with the samurai. And it’s like an African tale told like a samurai film. I’ve also been doing some documentaries for many years and the past 3 years, I’ve been able to shoot documentaries for French TV.
So obviously, you’re not limited to some idea or perception about what it is to be an African filmmaker.
The thing is, when I hear African cinema, it’s like a genre. People talk about it like a genre and I’ve been raised watching any kind of movie, Indian movies. American movies, and any movies so to me there are as many genres as we see in any country. So to me, African cinema is just maybe a cinema that deals with African issues so it could be anything.
So for people who aren’t there, they have a very narrow view of what African cinema is. They think Nollywood or South African cinema. What are your influences or any specific filmmakers that you like or inspire you?
Yes, there are a lot. I’m influenced all the time and I like it, I take it and do it as I can see it. I would say Ousmane Sembene, and I love Japanese films Kurosawa and Ozu films who inspired me a lot for the samurai films. Recently I’m really crazy about South Korean films, and some French directors.
So you’ll be shooting your project early next year?
Yea, we have the whole year but the thing is, to have the locations authorizations so it’s going to be a big deal because I don’t really do that in Burkina so I have to commute and go back and forth.
But this wont be the first one you made in Burkina? Or it will be?
It will be the first.
So you’re aware of the challenge it might be?
I know a few directors and some small production companies and I know a little bit.
If you could, I assume that you want to be a filmmaker professionally for the rest of your life. If you could explain or describe what your ideal filmmaker life would look like… Would you work in France, Hollywood?
I don’t think it’s about the place you’re making films. It’s about the kind of film that you want to makes, so I’d love to make personal things. So the definition I could give about what I want to do is I want to make movies that I want to see as an audience. So with all the influences I have it depends where I’m going to be. I’d love to talk about African issues, and things I’ve been raised with. I’d like to make stories out of that and make them accessible.
So, for example you have a film with Focus that takes off. Focus Features is parent companies with Universal and they say Cedric, we want you to move to LA, here’s 5 million dollars, or we want to sign you to a 3-year deal.
I would think about it because I’m actually starting in a way to have all of these ideas and histories that I want to tell so I don’t know how studios work so I don’t know if they’re really behind you or if they want. It depends. If you get your freedom, then-
No you don’t get a lot of freedom. (Laughs)
You don’t get freedom. What I’m doing most of the time is just doing it without money and it could take three years to make a 10 short film.
Do you feel any pressure to represent Burkina or Africa in general?
I don’t feel that. I want to do personal things and I know that what is personal is also cultural and I don’t think it’s going to. I want my stories to show the country and show Burkina in a certain way.
But no, I speak for myself but when you speak for yourself you’re actually using a voice for people and you’re telling their stories through their stories. And especially this film I’m telling what takes place at a special period when I was a kid there, and as I told you, it was a crucial moment for the country, so I think it’s echoing to some- a lot of people will identify with that and it’s what I’m trying to do, and not only people from Burkina, to make them accessible.
So, in 1983 there was a coup and for 4 years, they did some good things for the country because Burkina was the poorest country in the world. In 4 years, he also did some crazy things but it was like the last African Che Guevara like the last African Che Guevara. The last African revolutionary.
But this is only background for me because I was a kid at that time and I was living in my world. It makes sense now, many years after.