Innovative African Filmmaker Kunmi Ogunsola

“For me it’s about showcasing quality African content”

Architect, graphic designer, filmmaker – it’s been an unusual journey for Kunmi Ogunsola, the Gorton-based director whose debut short film, Sunflower, will premiere at Manchester’s Yard Theatre on 26 June. The film, centred around a British-Nigerian family, focuses on the fractured relationship between a father and daughter.

TNT sat down with Ogunsola to discuss a range of topics including the story behind the film, Ogunsola’s own journey into filmmaking, and the need for more diversity in media and entertainment.

What first drew you into filmmaking?

Film has always been there. I just hadn’t had the opportunity to pursue it the way I am now. I’d done stage plays in the past – writing, directing, acting – but Sunflower was my first time crossing over into film.

I’d always found cinema transformative, like being transported into a totally different world. I feel films have a way of impacting our lives and sparking conversation and so that was something I wanted to do, to affect people in a positive way. It’s always been a passion for me.

Was that what inspired you to make Sunflower?

I knew I wanted to tell a story about family. So I began to look internally. I looked at my relationship with my dad, and then learned through conversations with friends who had similar relationships with their dads – where they have that Nigerian/African father who is kind of like a boss. I began to realise it was something many others had experienced, that it was a universal thing. When I spoke to my white colleagues they were saying the same – their fathers had issues with communicating with them, and so it was difficult to be close with them now. So I wanted to kind of touch on that. I felt it would be something people would relate to.

Was that one of the most difficult things about making the film, the themes being so personal? What was the biggest challenge?

The biggest thing for me was – what will my dad think? In a sense it was weird, I was saying things through my film I couldn’t say to him face to face. I feared he wouldn’t understand me, or that he’d take it the wrong way.

I made it a point not to vilify him or any parent in the film, the idea is to show that there are two parts to a story and that it’s a case of coming to a middle ground and working together to better that relationship, whatever the relationship is. So that was the hardest thing for me – writing and thinking; how will he take this?

Your film is about to be introduced to an audience for the first time – how does it feel knowing this journey you’ve been on is going to be exposed to the world?

It’s been a long process for such a small project but we’ve been working hard at it for so long now that we’re really proud of it. It’s a sense of nostalgia in a way – like when you have a baby you don’t want to release it to everyone but at the same time you’re proud of it and want to showcase it to people. So we’re excited, a little scared, but mostly excited.

What are your hopes for the future – either with this film or subsequent work?

For me it’s about showcasing quality African content. There’s a void of stories from Africans being told by Africans. I just feel the world is bored of the same old same old.

My hope is that my films better the human experience. I want people to be able to engage each other on a human level rather than looking at race or gender or social status. So that’s the goal for me – to be part of getting to a point where we have more representation of black people or African film in mainstream media – more diverse stories.

Sunflower will premiere at Manchester’s Yard Theatre June 26 at 7pm, and will be followed by a screening July 8 in London’s Think Big Hub. Further information on screenings  can be foun at www.sunflowerthemovie.com.

TNT Entertainment Micah Yongo

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