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Africa cinema has come a long way

LOVE STORY: Cleopatra Wood and Fabio Abrahams star in Afua’s Diary

IT’S A love story with humour injected throughout. But Afua’s Diary also examines some of the not-so-funny issues facing young African immigrants in the UK.

Written by Ghanaian screenwriter Bibi Owusu Shadbolt, the romantic comedy follows Afua Brown (Cleopatra Wood), a marketing student going through trials and tribulations, including the money demands of her alcoholic father in Ghana and the fact that her British student visa is about to run out.

Afua finds new love with Italian businessman, Alan (Fabio Abrahams), but she soon finds that their romance has its own complications.

Screened earlier this year as part of the Black Filmmaker International Film Festival (BFMIFF), Afua’s Diary will be shown at London’s Grosvenor Casino later this month.
Here, Shadbolt talks to Life & Style about the growing opportunities for African filmmakers, and dispelling myths about African immigrants.

When did you get into the world of filmmaking and what inspired your love for storytelling?
I’ve always enjoyed writing but never pursued it as a career. In 2009, however I wrote a script for my local TV channel, which received great reviews. As a result, I took a course in film production with the Raindance Film school and wrote and produced my first film, Afua’s Diary. There are so many untold stories within Diaspora communities in the UK and I believe cinema is one of the best ways to tell these stories.

What inspired you to write Afua’s Diary?
Afua’s Diary was inspired by a friend’s story. Just like the lead in the film, my friend had a relationship with an African woman who had immigration issues. I felt the story had all the makings of a great love story but I also created fictional characters and decided to inject some comedy into the narrative for the purpose of cinema.


STORYTELLER: Bibi Owusu Shadbolt

What would you say are some of the most prevalent issues facing young African immigrants in the UK?
One of the main issues facing young African immigrants in the UK is the tendency to be stereotyped, particularly when it comes to matters such as immigration. When people think of an immigrant they think of a sponger, someone who can’t speak English properly, someone who’s moving to the country to take advantage of the system and who’s not willing to work. One of the reasons I wrote Afua’s Diary was to defuse that perception.

Did you have any expectations of the type of audience the film would appeal to and have your expectations proved right so far?
I wrote Afua’s Diary with global audiences in mind. Although the story is about an African immigrant in the UK, first and foremost it’s a great love story. The subject of love/romance is one that everyone can relate to, cutting right across racial, social and cultural boundaries and so far we’ve had a great response from audiences from France, UK, Africa and the US. Hopefully we can continue to reach even more audiences in the future.

Do you think opportunities have improved over the years for African film and African filmmakers in terms of level of mainstream exposure they can achieve?
Definitely. I think things have come a long way. There are now support systems in place to help filmmakers along the way and the BFI and Film London have funding options for projects that have great stories but wouldn’t necessarily make it to the cinemas. The success of films such as Gone Too Far and Half a Yellow Sun also prove that mainstream exposure is now possible for African filmmakers.

What are your long-term hopes for Afua’s Diary?
Afua’s Diary will be released in select cinemas across the UK and this will be followed by release on other platforms such as video-on-demand, DVD and eventually TV. But beyond that I hope to reach a lot more international audiences with this story too. Immigration is a prevalent subject right across the globe and Afua’s Diary puts a human face to that subject meaning that it can assist in helping other people understand people going through such a situation.

Afua’s Diary will be screened at Grosvenor Casino Piccadilly London, 3-4 Coventry Street, London W1 on November 21 and 28 and December 5. For more information, visit www.eventbrite.co.uk and search Afua’s Diary

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