SUPAFRIK takes a moment to catch up with producer Lucy Hamlet and find out a bit more about her next project, “Africa at Underground” which aims to turn Toronto on to the wide gamut of African cinema.
We will be giving away five pairs of tickets to the first five people who send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All you have to do is mention one African actor and the film they were featured in. It’s that simple.
Hi Lucy can you tell us a little about yourself and your involvement in film and theater?
I have been involved in theater/events production for over 15 years. I owned and operated a live event production company for about 7 years in Toronto. Produced shows, (mostly theater some concerts) locally and internationally (UMOJA, Denyce Graves); also wrote and directed a few pieces for stage (Love ‘n Movement, VIBE). On the film side so far I have been more of a connoisseur. Always loved film, more importantly I love the long reach of the medium to take me to places I have never been right from the comfort of wherever I am existing in that moment, my living room, an airplane, wherever!
2. Why did you decide to start the Africa at the Underground series?
After taking a break from live productions I was looking for the next thing to explore. I thought Digital media and films offer great opportunity to present cultural content and so as a producer I became excited about the power of these avenues to reach the masses. I can get really lost in films but got tired of the same old superficial stuff coming out of Hollywood. Over the summer I got introduced to some ‘Nollywood’ films and found myself captivated by the stories. Then more profoundly, beyond the stories other realizations started to unfold for me watching Nollywood films; for example the fact that these were feature films with Black folk playing every single role, the good the bad and the ugly roles. Or that black women of every complexion, size or stripe were being fawned over by black guys (this sounds superficial but it is a BIG deal). The idea for the series came simply from that…I thought why don’t we just get a space and screen these films, create a social event where Africans and people of African heritage can see themselves and each other; have a laugh or a cry, share our stories with each other on a semi-regular basis.
3. Who is is your target audience for Africa at the Underground?
The initial target audience are black folk, all kinds of black folk and then everyone else. However from my experience producing live events I know this may not necessarily happen that way. I have been cautioned by a Nigerian associate that Continental Africans will not come to the films especially if they(the films) are not new and because they don’t necessarily see anything special about them. However he feels we will have more luck with Afro-Canadians and African-Caribbeans who are consciously or subconsciously looking to connect with their African ancestry. All of this is left to be seen, we are open.
4. Tell us about the movie you will be screening on November 23rd.
On November 23rd we are screening the action flick GANGSTERS PARADISE: JERUSALEMA. Inspired by a true story, GANGSTER’S PARADISE: JERUSALEMA chronicles the rise to power of a self made millionaire from the slums of Soweto. The film takes a harsh but realistic look at Johannesburg, the city, the people, the place. It explores the will of the entrepreneurial spirit to assert itself in the face of degradation and decay, but also reflects the hopes and aspirations of its’ citizens. As one reviewer noted it’s kinda like Scarface meets Slumdog Millionaire.
How do you choose the films?
I am still honing my programming skills lol. In choosing the films we focus simply on well told stories that represent every aspect of the African life; a varied African Image if you will. So the films are to be from all over the African World. In some ways it is my way of wanting us to just be…whatever! Good, bad, poor rich, weak, strong, mean, gentle, WHATEVER. It’s about giving us the ability to imagine ourselves any damn way we want as opposed to having stories imposed upon us or feeling bad about the way we are portrayed by others. To me that’s what this great medium of film is all about- collective fantasy and imagination! I want us to just see ourselves; our possibilities, our aspirations, our failings our triumphs; in essence see our humanity through our own critical lens.
5. What is your vision for this series? How would you like to see it grow?
The series is part of a bigger vision which is to get African cinema & cultural content (produced by African artisans in the African world) onto the mainstream screens on a regular basis.This is a relatively simple idea to expand upon and so the intention is to grow it in every direction, in terms of film genres presented, venues presented at, multiple cities, etc. etc.
Ultimately the bigger goal here is to demonstrate to Black folk that although diverse we are very similar. Our stories intersect on many levels no matter what part of the globe we inhabit. There is a common thread that binds us and if we are able harness that African commonality our economic power and race esteem would definitely become something to be reckoned with! I want us to take back our rightful place as citizens of the world rather than it’s victims. Much like Indian Cinema (Bollywood) is helping to redefine the way the world looks at India and Indians I feel strongly that African Cinema can do the same for Africa and Africans everywhere.