A year ago, British filmmaker Nosa Igbinedion’s completed short film “Oya: Rise of the Orishas” was featured on this blog. Long-time readers will recall that it’s a project we had been following for about 2 years prior, since the filmmaker took to crowdfunding to raise money to complete it.
A welcomed project that digs into the pantheon of Orishas as inspiration for a superhero-style picture, the short film resurrects mythical deities from African folklore into modern-day superheroes. I’ve previously said that any one, or any few of the Orishas would make for great fodder for a feature film – whether a literal translation, or (getting creative) as superheroes, especially as Hollywood seems to be superhero movie happy right now. The time is right for a filmmaker to take something like this on! And here is one filmmaker doing just that (there, of course, might be others I don’t know about). And the pantheon of Orishas is deep! Eshu, Obatala, Ogun, Oshun, Shango, and countless others – each with their own individual powers and responsibilities – a perfect set up for any filmmaker to get creative with. A nice chunk of the work is already done! You’ll find Orisha lineages throughout the African Diaspora.
Upon producing his short film, Nosa’s plan was to eventually produce a feature-length film – an action-packed thriller set in modern-day Brazil, featuring a few of the Orishas – expanding the short, as we’ve seen other filmmakers do repeatedly in the past: produce a short version of a script to help raise money for, and generate early interest in the feature version. This is an approach I’ve always championed – especially if you’re a relatively unknown filmmaker. Show them what you can do first; win over their confidence; and then, hopefully, they’ll want to invest in you.
Moving ahead with the feature, Igbinedion has now cast Esosa E – best known for her role as Ngozi in the hit international TV
and web series “An African City” – as the lead in the upcoming “Rise of the Orisha” feature film, which Igbinedion will write and direct, with Tim Reid (yes, that Tim Reid) executive producing.
Logline: Adesuwa (Esosa E), a shy barmaid struggling to survive in the metropolis of Rio
de Janeiro, sees her world tossed upside down when she discovers she is the reincarnated fiery goddess
of storms, Oya.
According to the filmmaker, “Rise of the Orisha” will be the first of a trilogy of films that essentially re-imagine Orishas as modern-day superheroes. Further, the shared Orisha universe
will also include other mediums, starting with a web series titled “Yemoja: Rise of the Orisha,” which will serve as a precursor to the feature film.
“It’s a huge responsibility to take this ancient culture of Orisha and
portray them onscreen,” Nosa says. “We are trying to make these supernatural deities relatable to audiences while
staying true to the initial mythology. This is why I am so happy to have Esosa E on board. She has an amazing
grace and strength to handle the weight of the role, coupled with an endearing vulnerability that you can’t
help but fall in love with. I have been working on this rich universe of characters for some time so I am
admittedly very precious about casting, but Esosa embodies the character of Oya in a way that just feels
right. I am excited to work with such great collaborators and give birth to this new world.”
Esosa adds: “I have always wanted to play a superhero, or take on a role that would demand physical training, so being
cast in this role is a dream come true. What excites me the most about the world that Nosa created is that
he is using African mythology as the foundation. It’s a narrative we have never seen on the big screen and
I feel privileged to be a part of it. Because the story is so special I knew I had to be a part of the project in
front and behind-the-scenes as well.”
The web series, “Yemoja: Rise of the Orisha,” is set to be released this month on Vimeo On-Demand.