Filmmaker who made it big is now a mentor

Saturday November 2 2019

Award-winning director Julius Amedume (left) during a past shoot.

Award-winning director Julius Amedume (left) during a past shoot. PHOTO | COURTESY 

ANDREW I KAZIBWE
By ANDREW I KAZIBWE
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Born in London to Ghanaian parents, Julius Amedume’s education on film started with black and white film TV comedies and musicals.

He made his first short film at the age of 16. He has a degree in Communication and Technology and a Masters in Directing Fiction.

In 2019, he was invited to become a member of The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (that awards the Oscars) in California.

Rattlesnakes, his latest feature film won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2019 Pan African Film Festival and won an Independent Film Production Spirit Award at the 2019 SCREENNATION Film and Television Awards in London.

The lead actor was also nominated for best leading actor, while Amedume was nominated for Best African Director Living Abroad for the Michael Anyiam Osigwe Award at the 2019 African Movie Academy Awards.

His early project on a short documentary about La Cinéfondation Award at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival was adopted by Canal Plus in Belgium and France.

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He later founded Amedume Films, a production company, creating three short films which included The Meeting, The Phone Call and The Videotape.

These won him the Festival Vision Award, Best Feature at The 15th Pan African Film Festival (2007) for A Goat’s Tail, his feature film.

His accolades include directing four short films which include Mary And John, which was nominated for Best Short at the 2009 Rushes Soho Film Festival and a Golden Lion at the 2010 Taipei County film Festival in Taiwan.

Lorraine premiered at the 2009 Edinburgh Film Festival and was nominated for Best Short at the 2010 Rushes Soho Film Festival. Mr Graham premiered at New York’s 14th Urban World Film Festival in 2010.

Besides being a judge and panellist at a number of different film festivals, Mr Amedume’s most rewarding work is mentoring of young artists and facilitating workshops in school and community centres.

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This being your first trip to East Africa, what do you think?

I have been here briefly but I have fallen in love with the country. Living in the Western world, I had preconceived ideas painted by media stories, but having come here, and being a filmmaker, I am getting a different perspective.

It is beautiful, cinematic and with good energy. In some respects Rwanda could be a role model for other African countries. I am inspired enough to make a film on the country.

With several Pan African projects under your belt, you are not a British but a Pan-African filmmaker.

I guess so. I am more interested in telling stories from Africa, and showing Africa to the world, but at the heart of it, in telling a decent story which will immerse an audience to a similar experience I had when I was six years old when I was introduced to film.

I later discovered that films are crafted and put together by people. My fascination turned into a passion, and later, a career.

Having several films which featured at the Pan African Film Festival long before many other African filmmakers, what inspired you?

I like to tell human interest stories. Most of my films are about people who have to make tough choices and the repercussions of those choices.

These are things that people have pointed out to me in real life. It's only people who have looked at my entire body of work who see certain themes running through them.

I sometimes choose characters who explore, or whose stories aren’t told by mainstream films they are not the everyday people from societies, class or ethnicity which are pushed to the fore front. I just look for a story that entertains and educates an audience.

Describe your transition from short films to full feature films.

I come from an independent place, spirit and background. A lot of the first films were self-funded.

It was tough choices like buying a car, or making a film, but the film always won. Having that independent knowledge and experience has inspired me to get film off the ground, and stick to its lifespan, event though lack of opportunity, finances and other challenges, influence the stories I tell.

Describe the African film market?

It is still evolving. It has not yet found its proper place in the world, but it’s getting there. It has attracted the western world’s attention.

People are taking note, and enjoying African stories. Big entities such as Netflix and Amazon are tapping into this audience, not because they can make money out of it, but see the potential of how the stories travel, and how universal the themes are and make up the human experience.

What challenges does the African film industry face?

Distribution. Before it was about how to make films and tell our own stories, but today its happening due to technological advancement. How to get the films out there once they are made is a challenge.

Sometimes it is through film festivals, different source of entities, different sources of funding, streaming channels, but once you have distribution lines, then you can control the narrative and get stories out there for a massive audience.

Africa has, from way back, learnt a lot from western society and advancement through media broadcasts and films, which have found their way cross the African market. Would you say Africa today is well known out there now?

People tend to hold onto the past. The atrocities which have happened in Africa are really bad, but they need to learn from that, and shouldn’t still be stuck in the mindset of regurgitating the same old stories.

Unless there is a new spin into, then by all means tell that story. There is still a need to look for other interesting narratives that you can tell.

There is necessity for an eclectic mix of stories irrespective of the influence from those funding a particular project. You will always find a way of telling it.

How can rising film makers package their stories to this advantage?

By pooling resources. The tech guy needs to link up with the filmmaker and figure out a way to monetise it, so as to build enough funding for sustainability of projects.