So much can be hidden behind dialogue

Nigerian-born filmmaker and photographer Andrew Dosunmu talks about the importance of images and silence in telling his stories.

 

Nigerian-born and New York-based Andrew Dosunmu started his career as a fashion photographer, a skill which translates into his films, which are imbued with the rich colours of African fabrics. His first feature film “Restless City”, released in 2011, is a raw, unsentimental story of Senegalese immigrants in New York. 
 
Dosunmu made a name for himself in the United States after directing music videos for various acclaimed artists including Isaac Hayes, Angie Stone, Tracy Chapman and Wyclef Jean. His 2013 film “Mother of George” – the story of a Nigerian-American woman who reluctantly becomes pregnant by her-brother-in-law because her husband suffers from infertility – premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film relies on visual devices. Long, silent scenes take in looks between characters, hand gestures and details of clothes. In some cases, the language spoken is not translated into English but the story remains potent for non-Nigerian audiences. He says, “I really try to embrace the visual aspect of it because that transcends. People that don’t come from that culture or don’t understand that language don’t have to feel like they’re missing the translation, and that’s the kind of film I want to make.”
“So much can be hidden behind dialogue” he says and adds, “Being a photographer, that’s one of the benefits. That’s my strength.”
 
“It’s important to have a voice”
 
Dosunmu says, “It’s very important that we have our own voice as filmmakers. What’s our story? What’s the style of films we make?” He notes that he admires Nollywood film-makers for that very reason. “They have a voice. They have their own particular style. Like our literature, it’s universal but it’s specific. As a filmmaker, that’s what it’s about: how do I create that universal subject from our perspective and specifically with our voice? That’s what I’m in search of, what influences me, the way stories are told orally and how does one transcend that into a visual medium?”
Dosunmu is working on a film about the musician Fela Kuti. “He was such an incredible character. He lived nine lives,” Dosunmu says. The film will portray “the spirit of the man” rather than present his life as a biopic. “I would love the finance to come from Nigeria. I think it’s really important that we start being a part of our own stories, beyond being in front of the camera, actually directing, producing and financing it.”


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