I should first make it clear that this isn't a definitive, finite list. These are projects that I am currently aware of that are in some stage of development/production, and that I'm most excited about. You're more than welcome to help me grow the list by chiming in with your own suggestions, alerting me to projects in the works that I may not be aware of at this time, so that I can at least research them.
My selection is based mostly on my familiarity with the each filmmaker's past work, the story each film plans to tell - essentially what each project is about, and each filmmaker's shared approach where available. I also provide some useful background for all of them.
I expect most of these will premiere in the next 12 to 24 months, and I expect some of them to draw international attention and acclaim, including right here in the USA. Of course, as we learn more about each film's progress, we'll share with you.
Without further ado...
Jahmil X.T. Qubeka (Photo: Timmy Henny)
1 - The 2017 Cannes Cinefondation’s Atelier hosted its thirteenth edition this year, with 16 directors selected to participate, whose projects were considered particularly promising. Together with their producers, they met potential partners, a necessary step to begin production on their films. L’Atelier provides its participants access to international co-productions, thus helping to accelerate each film’s completion.
The Cinefondation’s Atelier was created in 2005 to stimulate creative filmmaking and encourage the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers. So far, out of 186 projects selected since the initiative launched, 145 have been completed and 14 are currently in pre-production.
For L’Atelier’s 13th edition this year, 15 projects from 14 countries were selected, featuring work from new directors as well as veteran filmmakers. Of note, given this blog's specific interests, was a project from South African filmmaker Jahmil X.T. Qubeka - whose feature debut, Of Good Report, was strongly supported on this blog, but still sadly remains underseen (it didn't receive much prominent distribution outside of South Africa). Qubeka's Cannes L'Atelier entry is titled Sew the Winter to my Skin.
Its synopsis reads: Inspired by the life and times of John Kepe, the Samson of the Boschberg, Sew the Winter to My Skin is a poetic chronicling of the escapades, arrest and trial of the Robin Hood-esque man of the mountain who managed to steal from farmers and elude capture for years during the 1950’s in South Africa. Beginning with Kepe’s final mission before capture, "Sew the Winter to My Skin" pieces the legend together from multiple perspectives, including that of the white farmers, the town militia, a torn journalist covering Kepe’s trial, farm laborers and the locals. In his ultimate sacrifice Kepe takes on responsibility for a murder he did not commit in an attempt to ensure a future for the guilty young boy who murdered a farm laborer in order to protect Kepe. Sew the Winter to My Skin explores the futility of the white settlers’ preoccupation with the preservation and protection of their ideals and physical possessions. It is a film about the search for a hero amongst victimized black people.
Qubeka calls the film a passion project, stating: "Spending my teen years in the small town of Somerset East exposed me to the legend of John Kepe, a man who spent his days in a cave on the mountain, who spent his life preparing for something that no one else knew about. As with most stories I hear, I immediately began devising ways in which to tell it. The epic nature of his capture, the spiritual poetry of his calling, the backdrop of the sleepy town, the impending horror of Apartheid and the power of the man and his fervent belief in something greater than himself. This is an authentic South African story that creates a hero, a people’s champion in a time where local heroes were not rewarded or immortalized."
His last feature Of Good Report was a solid intro to American audiences for the filmmaker and cinéaste - one that really should have gotten him far more attention than it did. He was on the S&A Filmmakers to Watch list in 2013, so it's good to see him continue to progress. With Sew the Winter to My Skin already drawing attention from the likes of the Cannes Cinefondation’s Atelier, it's off to a good start.
Here's a teaser trailer for his last film, the serial killer origin story, Of Good Report.
Black Dynamite Films and TNG Present
2 - Three years ago on this blog, I wondered whether French actor/comedian Thomas Ngijol would be the next Omar Sy – as in, a French male actor/comedian of African descent, who finds great success in a film that is a hit in his homeland, and eventually becomes a global phenomenon, forcing Hollywood to take notice, as he transplants his family from France to the bright lights of Los Angeles, to capitalize on that interest/curiosity, while still of course enjoying a healthy career back home, in France.
Readers of this blog will remember the 2011/2012 French time travel/slavery comedy (Case Départ) that Monsieur Ngijol co-wrote and co-starred in (alongside Fabrice Eboué) – a movie that dared to tackle the gravity of slavery via comedy and some sci-fi elements, which was a box office hit in France, and which caused a bit of a stir outside of France, particularly here in the USA, where many didn’t quite take to the idea of slavery as anything to laugh about.
Keep in mind that this was before "Django Unchained" seemingly kicked off what we fondly came to refer to as “slave movie fever.”
There's no confirmation that Case Départ ever was officially released in the USA. Although you can buy a region 2 DVD/Blu-ray disc if you’re interested in checking it out. But it may not be English-subtitled.
Ngijol and Eboué then returned over 2 years later with another movie that seemingly tackled weighty subject matter using comedy. Titled Le Crocodile du Botswanga (The Botswanga Crocodile), it starred Eboué and Ngijol, and followed a young talented French football player, discovered as a teenager by a small-time agent who takes him under his wing. But first, the player has to take his dead mother’s ashes back home to her village in Botswanga as she requested (likely a play on Botswana, the landlocked country located in southern Africa). At the same time, his ancestry earns him an invitation from the Botswangan president (played by Thomas Ngijol), a football enthusiast who has just taken power of the fictional country after a military coup. Accompanied by his agent, the player sets off to the country of his ancestors for the first time in his life, to pay homage to his mother as well as to be decorated by the President who, despite his humanistic speeches, rapidly turns out to be a megalomaniac, paranoid dictator.
Naturally, hijinx and hilarity ensue, with maybe some life lessons learned along the way, tackling topical socio-political issues.
The film (budgeted at around $10 million) was released in France on February 12, 2014, and was also a box office hit, making it 2 in-a-row for Ngijol and Eboué. Again, it’s not a film that’s been released in the USA either. But, as I’ve noted previously, these two actor/comedian/writers (Eboué and Ngijol) seem to be carving out a piece of the cinema pie in France, for themselves. They are stars in France, so it may be only a matter of time before Hollywood comes calling, and they join their fellow Frenchman, Omar Sy, in Los Angeles. Assuming of course that they are even interested. I shouldn’t be so presumptuous.
Like Key & Peele here in the USA, the pair split up to work on individual projects; Ngijol specifically went on to direct a comedy feature titled Fastlife, which was released in French theaters in July 2014 - his second feature film released theatrically in the country within the same year.
Fastlife centered on a megalomaniac obsessed with the idea of fame at any price, who is forced to choose between growing up and becoming a man, or continue living the fast life.
Ngijol also starred in the film, as well as directed from a screenplay that he co-wrote with Mohamed Issolah.
It's yet another one of his films that hasn't drawn any American interest, so English-speaking audiences are out of luck.
But maybe... just maybe... Ngijol's next film, announced at the Paris Comic-Con last year, will crossover, given its central character: an African superhero, in a time when superhero movies and TV series are all the rage, and black superheroes are especially in demand.
According to pals in France, Ngijol attended Paris Comic-Con to present his new project titled Black Snake which he stars in and also co-directs. He described it as an ambitious and innovative movie which he's co-directing along with his girlfriend, actress Karole Rocher.
"Superman flies over Africa, and he pretends he doesn't see us," the actor said jokingly. "It's fine to go save Gotham City and other mega-cities, but there is also work to do in Yaoundé, Ivory Coast and Zaire. At one point I thought, 'Shit, where are the superheroes on the [African] continent?'"
As for what exactly Black Snake will be about, Ngijol shared: "The audience will be immersed in the extraordinary adventures of Clotaire Sangala, a man who takes on the Black Snake alter ego to fight crime and injustice across Africa. He's a masked vigilante trained in martial arts who will face an African dictator oppressing his people."
A crime certainly of the moment, as he has lots of real-life material to work with.
Ngijol promises an "impressive" film that will try to compete with the highly anticipated Black Panther movie that Ryan Coogler is directing for Disney/Marvel, which is due in theaters in early 2018.
Black Snake is backed by French producers BlackDynamite Films - the company behind French hits like Les Infidèles starring Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin (the first French actor in history to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Artist), and more.
Filming was expected to start in early 2017 in South Africa, but there's no evidence to confirm that it has. The actor did previously say that it would be a monumental undertaking, so this is one project that may take some time to come together.
There was teaser for Black Snake shared online, but it's since been pulled unfortunately. It'll likely resurface; so once it does, this post will be updated with it. It didn't reveal much; after all, it's a teaser. But based on what I saw, it looked like it'll be more of a comedy-action movie, maybe more akin to a superhero film like "Deadpool" in tone.
The above teaser poster and screencap are all we have to share at the moment.
Definitely a project we'll be keeping a close eye on.
3 - Scant details on this one thus far... but enough to get excited about.
Earlier this year, Fox 2000 acquired 23-year-old Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi's debut YA (Young Adult) West African fantasy novel Children of Blood and Bone, which is the first in what will be a trilogy.
Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone - which hasn't been published yet - must have serious potential and impressed both Fox brass and Macmillan Publishing immensely, as the deal with Fox was said to be in the seven-figures; also whopping is the author's publishing deal with Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group - reportedly one of the biggest YA debut novel publishing deals ever.
Described as "Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Black Lives Matter," what we know of the story thus far is minimal: With magic, Zélie’s family could stand against the royal guard. Her people wouldn’t live in fear. Her mom wouldn’t have hanged from that tree. Years after the king wiped magic out of Orïsha, Zélie has one chance to bring it back. To do so, she’ll have to outwit/outrun the crown prince, who’s hell-bent on erasing magic for good.
Further: "From the West African-inspired world, to Tomi’s painstakingly layered characters, and her ability to crush you with heart-shattering *FEELS* bombs... how she uses magic and the monarchy to illuminate privilege and connect with Black Lives Matter... is nothing short of ingenious!"
In addition, on the author's website, in her bio, she states that she writes because: "I want a little black girl to pick up my book one day and see herself as the star. I want her to know that she's beautiful and she matters and she can have a crazy, magical adventure even if an ignorant part of the world tells her she can never be Hermione Granger. I want to give something to the world that I feel I missed out on as a child, and I want to help people of all races, ethnicities, and orientations understand that no matter what differences we may think we have, everyone is a human and everyone deserves to be respected and valued. I also write because I refuse to believe I will never have any magical powers and if I keep writing YA Fantasy I can keep that delusion up."
The first book in the trilogy - Children of Blood and Bone - will hit book stores on March 6, 2018. Henry Holt Books for Young Readers will publish under Macmillan Publishers.
Temple Hill’s Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are producing the Fox 2000 film adaptation with Karen Rosenfelt.
Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach with a degree from Harvard University; she's also the recipient of a fellowship to study West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil.
Kudos to Ms. Adeyemi. This is most certainly a timely project we'll be tracking.
4 - For his next film, Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako (following the great success that was last year's Timbuktu, which was well covered on this blog) said he was developing an adaptation of author Amin Maalouf’s Leo the African, a historical novel based on the real-life of Hasan al-Wazzan, also known as Leo Africanus, a 15th century Moorish explorer, diplomat and author, best known for his book Descrittione dell’Africa (Description of Africa), which lays out the geography of North Africa.
Whether or not Sissako is still pursuing the idea isn't public info at this time
But there's a second Leo Africanus film in development with Moroccan-French actor Jamel Debbouze on-board to star. The feature film will also be an adaptation of Amin Maalouf’s book, but Sissako's name isn't attached to this project. And based on what we know of how these things work, there typically can't be 2 films in the works based on the same novel, at the same time. One of these productions currently claims the rights to Maalouf's book; both of them can't - again, not simultaneously.
Debbouze's film will be produced by Symply Entertainment Beirut and Paris-based 3B Productions, as an official Lebanese-French co-production.
Leo Africanus was born in Granada, in 1485, and died around 1554, in Tunisia - a traveler whose writings were Europe’s principal sources of information about Islam, for centuries. Educated in Morocco, he was an avid traveler, typically on commercial and diplomatic missions through North Africa. During one of his trips through the Mediterranean, he was captured by Christian pirates and, because he showed extraordinary intelligence, he was presented as a gift to Pope Leo X, as a slave, who was impressed with his smarts, and would later free him, having persuaded him to profess Christianity, and had him baptized. His name was changed to Giovanni Leone, after converting, and he enjoyed favor in scholarly Roman society, learned Latin and Italian, and taught Arabic. Around 1526 he completed his greatest work, "Descrittione dell’Africa" (a geographical breakdown of Africa). He eventually returned to North Africa, where he is believed to have died a Muslim.
There is very little actually known about his actual life, and author Amin Maalouf's book fills in historical episodes, placing Leo in the company of many of the key historical figures of his time, including three popes, (Leo X, Adrian VI, and Pope Clement VII), two Ottoman emperors (Selim I and Suleiman the Magnificent), with appearances by Boabdil (the last Moorish king of Granada), Askia Mohammad I of the Songhai Empire, Ferdinand of Spain, and Francis I of France, as well as the artist Raphael and other key political and cultural figures of the period.
Legend has it that Shakespeare based his Othello character on Leo Africanus.
It was the author's first novel, published in 1986 to much critical acclaim.
Now we wait to find out which of the above 2 projects is eventually brought to life... assuming they are both still in the works.
5 - After a lengthy period in research and development, principal photography wrapped last fall on the South African thriller, Five Fingers for Marseilles, from director Michael Matthews and screenwriter Sean Drummond (both of them also produce). A 2017 premiere date was previously eyed by the production team, and I was expecting a Toronto (TIFF) debut, but it doesn't look like it will happen, so we may be looking at early 2018.
Set over a 20-year period, the synopsis for Five Fingers for Marseilles reads: The community of Railway, attached to the remote South African town of Marseilles, are the victims of brutal police oppression and only the young "Five Fingers" will stand up to them. Their battle is heartfelt but innocent, until hot-headed Tau kills three policemen in an act of passion. He flees Marseilles, fearing for his life, but his action has triggered what will become a violent war between the police and his remaining Five Finger brothers. Twenty years later, Tau is released from a Johannesburg prison. He has become a feared and brutal gang leader, but scarred and empty inside he renounces violence and returns to the community of his childhood desiring only a peaceful life. In a new South Africa, Marseilles is indeed free, but to his dismay Tau finds that rather than the haven he hoped for, the town is a community now caught in the grip of cross-border gangs and corruption. Struggling to reconcile with his bitter past, he can keep his head down only so long. When violence spills into his own life he is reluctantly compelled to act. Railway and Marseilles need a champion to fight for their freedom once and for all. Calling in old prison-mates and with new blood at his side, Tau forms a new Five Fingers, standing against old friends and new enemies alike in a thrilling escalation of battle.
The cast includes local talent like Vuyo Dabula, who stars in the film, and is joined by Hamilton Dhlamini, Zethu Dlomo, Kenneth Nkosi, Mduduzi Mabaso, Lizwi Vilakazi, Kenneth Fok, Anthony Oseyemi, Dean Fourie, and Jerry Mofokeng.
Asger Hussain and Yaron Schwartzman are also producers on the project.
The filmmakers say that they are influenced by American westerns, like classic John Ford-era films, as well as Spaghetti westerns and revisionist tales, telling a contemporary South African crime story in local (Xhosa) tongue.
They also share that the film will contain relevant socio-political threads, using allegory to explore the current South African political and economical climate, promising a dark, edge-of-the-seat, and stark human drama.
Cape Town-based Be Phat Motel Film Company is producing Five Fingers for Marseilles.
Check out a bunch of images from the film below.
6 - A blog I've been reading for a few years, and you should be too if you're a reader of this blog, Africa Is a Country, launched a Kickstarter campaign last year to finance what will be their very first, and hopefully not last, feature film production - a documentary that football (or as we call it here in the USA, soccer) fans (and others, I'm sure) will surely appreciate.
They raised enough money and secured funds elsewhere to finance the production of a short teaser that will then be used to help attract financing to pay for the making of the eventual feature, which will be titled Africa's Premier League.
A description of the film by the filmmakers: Africa is obsessed with the English Premier League. The continent may be divided by old colonial borders, thousands of different languages, and major cultural, political and economic differences. But Africa is united every weekend around the spellbinding spectacle of English football. The everyday lives of Africa's football fans are all different. Yet they share a long-distance love affair, with all the hopes, fears, joys and sadness that comes with it. If it's not Rwanda's President Paul Kagame taking time out to tweet his views on his beloved Arsenal, then it's the millions of ordinary Africans across the continent who are glued to TV sets in bars and bespoke viewing centres, from tiny villages to heaving mega-cities like Lagos or Kinshasa. We want to show, in depth and detail, exactly how English football fits into the ordinary lives of African supporters. Our film will tell the story of Africa's passion for the English Premier League, through the eyes of the fans themselves. If you love what we've been doing at Africa is a Country all these years -- bringing you that fresh, incisive analysis of African politics and culture -- you'll love our very first full-length documentary film project: Africa's Premier League. It follows four fans - in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Congo - as they live through the highs and lows of a football season, and explores the overwhelming attraction of English football in Africa. Africa's Premier League will be a feature-length documentary film, a web series & a TV series.
Check out the video pitch below for more info on what I think is an exciting project to look forward to!
7 - A project that has received backing of several prestigious organizations, including the World Cinema Fund (WCF) - an initiative of the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Berlin International Film Festival, and the Goethe-Institut, awarding funding amounting to 145,000 euros (close to $200,000) - award-winning Ghanaian-American filmmaker Akosua Adoma Owusu's Black Sunshine is a feature-length experimental film and is described as follows: "Black Sunshine is a feature-length experimental film about a promiscuous Ghanaian hairdresser, Effie, and her albino daughter, Asabea. Born albino, everything about Asabea sets her apart. Her days are spent caring for her ailing mother and dreaming of escaping with her mysterious friend, Shebere. When she tries to balance her life between Effie and Shebere, she finds herself pulled down two separate paths—and the places they lead her are darker than she could ever imagine. The film weaves together scripted and nontraditional documentary forms, and examines albino Africans as tropes for crosscultural identity. Albinos have been chastised, ridiculed and killed in many parts of Africa because of their skin color. The film explores conventional beauty, emotional violence, the social stigma of albinism in Africa and its impact on family dynamics."
A project that tackles themes Akosua has explored in previous works (specifically conventional beauty and identity) - including the short documentary titled Me Broni Ba, which translates as My White Baby, that were covered previously on this blog - Black Sunshine was also one of 23 projects to be selected to receive a Creative Capital grant. The initiative emphasizes the importance of risk-taking, encouraging projects that are bold, innovative, genre-stretching and topical. So it should give you some idea of what to expect from the film and filmmaker.
“Me Broni Ba” is a phrase of endearment used in parts of Ghana, as in when a mother refers to her beloved child, or even a husband referring to his cherished wife; in either situation, the adorer will refer to the adored as “Me Broni Ba,” or, “My White Baby;” essentially, it speaks to that age-old idea that, for blacks, “whiteness” is the ideal. The 22-minute film screened at numerous film festivals worldwide, to much critical acclaim.
I should also note that Akosua was also previously selected for now-defunct prestigious Focus Features African First program we’ve talked so much about here on S&A.
But Black Sunshine is officially a project on my alert list, so as Akosua moves forward with it, I’ll report anything here of significance. She’s clearly off to a promising start with all the funding she's received for the film so far.
Below is a short profile of the filmmaker:
8 - Based on the 1981 "Operation Brothers" rescue of Ethiopian Jews and their relocation to Israel, a brief version of the story goes... Ethiopia, September 1974, Emperor Haile Selassie was ousted by a pro-communist military junta who then installed a totalitarian-style government run by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Communism was officially adopted, and as a result, the new regime gradually began to embrace anti-religious and anti-Israeli stances, which meant hostility towards then Jews of Ethiopia (Beta Israel, also known as Ethiopian Jews). Concerned for the fate of the Ethiopian Jews, the Israeli government officially recognized the Beta Israel community as Jews in 1975, for the purpose of the "Law of Return" (essentially an act that grants Jews all over the world the right to *return* to Israel). In the early 1980s, Ethiopia went through a series of famines and civil wars. As a result, the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians, including the Beta Israel community, were on unstable ground, with many fleeing to neighboring Sudan. The Israeli government would then step in to assist, and in several covert military operations, eventually rescued much of the Beta Israel population (Ethiopian Jews), *returning* them to Israel - operations that continued throughout much of the 1980s.
An upcoming project will tell one family's story during the turmoil, from Ethiopian-Israeli filmmaker Alamork Marsha, which will be her feature film debut. Titled Fig Tree, the film is based on her experiences as a child in war-torn Addis Ababa in 1991.
The script, which has traveled a bit over the last 3 years, won the $50,000 top prize at the pitching event at the Jerusalem International Film Lab in 2014. It was also selected for the Locarno Open Doors Co-production Lab, which was dedicated to Sub-Saharan African cinema that year.
In her pitch, Marsha revealed how Fig Tree was inspired by her childhood, living with her grandmother on the outskirts Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, during the civil war, and her Jewish family’s decision to move to Israel: "Through this film I want to go back to my grandmother’s house in Ethiopia to describe life in the war and express the dissonance between two conditions, the war that brings death with it and the human lust for life," the filmmaker said previously. “One of my clearest memories is that I am playing chase with my friends and the next minute I am trying to avoid the soldiers’ crazy looks as they are dragging boys into trucks in order to send them to fight in the frontline. This surreal moment keeps repeating itself. I am playing and the war around me is kicking.”
The Ethiopia-set production on Fig Tree (using both non-actors as well as actors from the local theatre scene in Addis Ababa) is to be produced by Saar Yogev and Naomi Levari at Tel Aviv-based Black Sheep Film Productions, along with Penrose Av Medien and En Compagnie Des Lamas.
It is further supported by Rabinovich Film Fund, Gesher-Avi Hai Production grant, the Beracha Foundation, World Cinema Fund, MFG, CNC-Cinema Du Monde, Gesher Multi Cultural Fund, and Israel Film Fund.
The above photo is from the film courtesy of production company Black Sheep Film.
9 - A new film to look out for that's in the works, from the creative team behind Chameleon, the critically-acclaimed 2015 featured documentary on Anas Aremeyaw Anas, the award-winning Ghanaian investigative journalist, famous for using his anonymity (he does not show his face in public, opting for masks and disguises) as he tackles human rights and anti-corruption issues across sub-Saharan Africa.
The upcoming film titled Sierra Leone: The Film is a documentary that tells the inspiring story of Charlie Haffner, Sierra Leone’s most beloved theatre director, who, after decades watching his country crumble and seeing his people leave in search of better lives, works to create a play unlike anything Sierra Leoneans have seen: a great work of art to inspire the next generation of leaders to stay and rebuild.
The film will follow Haffner as he stages the most ambitious play in his country’s history — a play to restore hope, re-awaken a lost culture and unite his people around a vision of a better future. A country without even a single dedicated theatre venue, Haffner, who has always used villages and town squares as sets and locals as actors, will embark on a journey of dogged determination, bitter frustrations and rich rewards, as he attempts to restore a nation’s pride, say the filmmakers.
The team behind the film includes producer Sorious Samura, is a multiple Emmy winner and native of Sierra Leone; Director Clive Patterson, a critically-acclaimed director and producer whose work has appeared on the BBC, Channel 4 and Al Jazeera English; Executive Producer Nick Fraser, Commissioning Editor for the BBC’s Storyville strand and executive producer of "Man on Wire," which won an Oscar for Best Documentary, the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the BAFTA Award; and Music Composer Daniel Platzman, a Grammy winning musician, producer, and drummer in the superstar rock band Imagine Dragons, who is creating an original score for the film that will combine locally sourced and recorded music.
The film raised £20,778 (about $26,000) via a Kickstarter campaign last summer, in completion funding, to add to the 75% of the production budget previously secured elsewhere.
"Sierra Leone: An Artist's Journey" is expected later this year, 2017.
For now, watch a promo for the film below:
10 - British-Nigerian filmmaker Joseph Adesunloye is set to direct a new UN-backed documentary about climate change that will be executive produced by City of God filmmaker, Fernando Meirelles.
Titled The Great Green Wall, the film will chronicle the ongoing initiative to grow an 8,000 km wall of trees and plants across the width of the African continent. The story will unfold through the eyes of Malian singer and model Inna Modja - who will also produce the film’s soundtrack along with several international musicians - with a grand finale that will end in Senegal where featured artists will hold a concert at the Great Green Wall.
The Great Green Wall of trees will run through 11 countries along the southern frontier of the Sahara Desert. Led by the African Union, the key purpose of the wall is to combat the effects of climate change, provide a mighty barrier against the advance of the Sahara, and to reverse the desertification that's spreading drought, famine and poverty through the Sahel region (from west to east, including parts of northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, central Mali, northern Burkina Faso, the extreme south of Algeria, Niger, the extreme north of Nigeria, central Chad, central and southern Sudan, the extreme north of South Sudan, Eritrea, Cameroon, Central African Republic and extreme north of Ethiopia). The Initiative has 21 African countries participating, over $4 billion of pledged funding, and heavyweight partners from the World Bank to the French government. The project is expected to restore 50 million hectares of land, provide food security for 20 million people, create 350,000 jobs, and sequester 250 million tons of carbon. Work is already well underway.
Filming on the $750K project was set to kick off this summer in Senegal, Mali, Niger, Ethiopia and Nigeria, with producers aiming to shop the documentary to broadcasters and international distributors.
Produced by UK outfit Make Productions, and backed by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the film is executive produced by BAFTA winner Sarah MacDonald, and Sian Kevil, a former editor of BBC’s Newsnight.
As for why City of God director Fernando Meirelles is involved in the making of the project, the filmmaker told Screen magazine: “I plant around 13-15,000 trees each year. I have my own nursery. It is an important moment in history to plant trees and plants, something which is as an easy and cheap solution to help combat climate change... I first came to hear about the Great Green Wall when directing the Rio Olympics opening ceremony, which had a segment about forests. I was amazed by the scale of the project. The Great Green Wall is an environmental and social project: support for it is very important. This is a hopeful documentary about a positive initiative.”
Director Adesunloye is a filmmaker whose work has been highlighted on this blog; his feature film debut, White Colour Black, made its world premiere at the 60th BFI London Film Festival in October of last year, where it was nominated for the BFI IWC Schaffhausen Filmmakers Bursary Award. The film continues to travel the international film festival circuit, drawing acclaim along the way. A trailer for "White Colour Black" follows below to give you a glimpse at the filmmaker's past work, as we await more information on what will be his next film, The Great Green Wall.
That's it! Again, this isn't some definitive, finite list, so, as I encouraged at the top of this post, feel free to chime in with upcoming African film projects that you are excited about, which I just may not be familiar with.