African Filmmakers’ Award

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When one is studying about Egypt, it is through the Far East or Oriental Studies’ Department but not as part of the African Studies Department, thus presented in a way that implies Egypt is outside of Africa, which it is not. The perception about Egypt oftentimes is that it is part of sub Sahara Africa rather than North Africa. One of the reasons I chose to write about Egypt was to clear up those misconceptions and to showcase the grandeur of Egypt. I also wanted to inform people that Egyptians were, and continue to be, people of color.

We know the world is shrinking when tales can reach across the world and allow continents to touch and unite a scattered people.

The earth is rapidly becoming a more diverse place where the voices of the once disenfranchised can now be heard and more importantly, be seen. Filmmaking is one of the genres that has made this communication possible. On Thursday, April 28th, the African Film Commission (AFC) will present its Annual Award Ceremony and launch its 3rd Annual Storytelling Screenwriting Competition. The event will take place at the Messob Restaurant (Little Ethiopia) located at 1041 South Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, CA. This year’s winner, New Yorker Yor-El Francis, will receive the grand prize of $5,000.00 for his screenplay “Fire of the Sun.â€? Mr. Francis placed first among other winners in the feature film category. 

The African Film Commission (AFC) became operational in 1995. The AFC reached out to various African nations across the African continent asking them to endorse the AFC. Ghana was the first to enlist. Benin, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa followed suit. “We hope to travel to a number of African countries after the screenwriting contest to meet with their Ministers of Information and Culture in order to tell them what we are doing,� explained Nicolas Nelle, the president of AFC. “The AFC is part of a larger international organization which includes all the film commissions around the world as members. AFC’s purpose is to work with the African governments to further assist in the development of the African film industry. There are 53 different countries in Africa so there are several cultures to depict and many stories to tell,� continued Mr. Nelle.

“Through these films, we hope to network with film professionals and educate others around the world about African people and our shared humanity. We also seek to encourage African filmmakers and scriptwriters. In order to make a film, we need scripts, so, that is why AFC started the screenwriting competition. We encourage African screenwriters and/or those of African descent across the Diaspora and of any ethnic background, to submit their work and compete with one another so that the nations of Africa can build a film empire. I came up with the idea to do a contest to allow people to submit their screenplays in order to gain the material needed to accomplish that goal,â€? stated the determined filmmaker. 

Nicolas Nelle, who is from the country of Cameroon, received his film education at the London International Film School. Originally, he made commercials and did film consultancy work in Africa. However, determined to learn more about film he decided to attend the American Film Institute in California where he presently resides. “In Cameroon I was more into business and diplomacy but I really wanted to be in film. Thus, I came to America, studied, and eventually started the film commission. This year we had categories in feature film and documentaries. The grand prizewinner of the feature competition this year was Yor-El Francis, who is a great storyteller. His story is about an Egyptian Pharaoh who tried to unite his people and is entitled “Fire of the Sun.�
Born in Monrovia, Liberia, Yor-El lived for a time with his diplomat grandparents in Germany, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and then eventually moved to New York. I really feel his script brings meaning to the story of Africa,â€? remarked Nelle. 

“When I wrote the story of Pinkhi in “Fire of the Sunâ€? explained Yor-El Francis of Staten Island, “My script was based on a true story that I dramatized about an Egyptian Pharaoh. I have always been fascinated with African cultures. Egypt, which is a country within Africa, has often been misconstrued and thought of as not being part of Africa. I had a reporter ask me once why I did my screenplay on Egypt when the premise was about Africa. I had to inform him that Egypt is in Africa. Often when one is studying about Egypt, it is through the Far East or Oriental Studies’ Department but not as part of the African Studies Department, thus presented in a way that implies Egypt is outside of Africa, which it is not. The perception about Egypt oftentimes is that it is part of sub Sahara Africa rather than North Africa. One of the reasons I chose to write about Egypt was to clear up those misconceptions and to showcase the grandeur of Egypt.  I also wanted to inform people that Egyptians were, and continue to be, people of color. I am a true African American because I was born in Africa, yet have lived in the USA much of my lifeâ€? chuckled Mr. Francis. “I was delighted to win the script competitionâ€? explained Mr. Francis who is presently in the Director’s Guild of Producers Training Program.

“I encourage people to submit their screenplays to the AFC because it is a great opportunity. You do not have to be African to enter but the screenplay must have an African theme. The theme could even reflect the Caribbean or African Diaspora as well. Films about the African culture is definitely needed, so I encourage anyone who has that sort of screenplay to go ahead and submit it to the AFC.â€? 

Submitted screenplays go through a selection process by a panel of industry professionals wherein the best and winning screenplays are reviewed by the Brass Brad Consultancy firm.  The 2nd prize went to Shafik Benjamin, from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, for his screenplay “The Rape of Afrika Shonara.â€? His screenplay features the colonization of the Congo by Belgium. “Belgium soldiers were everywhere in the Congo,â€? explained Nicolas. “Mr. Benjamin’s story is about an African woman who was raped by a Belgian soldier. She gave birth to twins, one was white and the other was black. Her sons grew up to fight oppression and avenge the crime committed against their mother. The third place winner in the feature category was Daniel Adjokatcher of Ghana. Mr. Adjokatcher’s screenplay was entitled “Big Man Wahlah.â€? His story is a drama about a taxi driver who is recruited by a corrupt African minister to help him get out of the country. The script is serious but has many humorous parts in it. 

In the documentary film category, Linica Daniel, of London, won grand prize for “Hector: The Story of the Soweto Student Uprising.â€? Ms. Daniel’s story took place in South Africa. It tells the story of the Soweto rebellion through the eyes of a 12-year-old child. The second winner in the same category was Wanja Mary Sellers of Kenya for her documentary “Running Like the Windâ€? which details the personal stories of Kenya’s long distance runners. 

“I have found that anywhere in the world there is a film commission, the film industry grows. I know that people want to see films. Therefore, I encourage people to submit their works because if their stories are good the Commission is interested in producing them and making them into films. We are inviting people who are interested in all the genres of filmmaking, to contact us and consider becoming part of our Commission. The time is right for us as a people to invest in each other. Film is a wonderful venue in which to do this,â€? offered Nelle. 

Screenwriters and filmmakers of African descent and from any ethnic background who are interested in competing in next year’s competition and/or becoming involved with AFC, can contact Mr. Nicolas Nelle through his Email:
nelle@africanfilmcommission.org or log onto www.filmafrica.org , to learn more about the African Film Commission and submissions to the screenwriting contest.
 
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