filmmaking in akwa ibom


yes, 'filmmaking in akwa ibom' is in fact the title of this post. as i write this, one mr. paul frank--an akwa ibomite and university of utah-trained filmmaker--is shooting a trailer for his feature film in uyo. he sourced the 45-person cast with locals--drawing from the 400-person strong ibom actors forum--and the crew from locals too--some of whom were trained in india and south africa. he will edit the film in uyo, too, and plans to submit the final feature to sundance.

it was a chance meeting after i stopped by the national gallery to visit with ani udosen, a wonderful sculptor i met last year, who gave me paul's contact info. i called, and paul stopped by the house just hours before i left for the airport headed back to lagos. he was younger than i thought he'd be, optimistic, excited, with a delicate balance of ego and humility that is the trademark of a successful filmmaker. we had one of those filmie conversations--fast, run-on sentences with heavy jargon--at the end of which i was convinced we had to work together somehow. if i weren't presently broke and headed back to nyu in the fall, i would simply stay behind and work on his film.

paul also told me that the tropicana entertainment complex is finally open, supposedly the largest cinema in africa. they had been building it for some years, and finally launched in may before the gubernatorial election. political stunt? maybe, but it seems that the governor is a film fan, since we've been waiting even longer for the library to open. paul hopes the good governor will help finance his film, as he's done for a few others in the past.

"when you're ready to come back, we're here," paul said, and, with a warm handshake, drove away. i stood there a minute, stunned, wondering how i could possibly then go to the airport and leave. how i could pass up an opportunity to help jumpstart the akwa ibom feature film industry. i am too broke and confused right now, i thought. i'll be back--prepared.

at any rate, i did apply for an all roads seed grant to shoot a documentary this year at my late mother's secondary school in afaha oku. i also have a feature film idea, set at that same school, that would be my dream to make.

i meet so many diasporans who dream of revolutionizing cinema in their native countries, many of whom learn and labor in the international system without setting foot on ground back home to see what's going on. a part of me knows that can't possibly work in practice. you have to be on ground. you have to know what's going on. you have to stay current and relevant. place does matter. learn what you need to abroad, if you like, but go home and do some good. really.

i hope to join paul soon. meeting him helped to crystallize the yearnings i've been having these past few years. nevertheless, this blog still took a very long time to write. --AL.

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