Her Film on hiatus until Dec. 1

Her Film will be on hiatus until Thursday, December 1.  Many thanks to all recent interviewees, guest bloggers and followers of this blog. Your support is so important to the mission of this blog & global project, and it means the world to me.

In the meantime (and all the time), please check out Wellywood Woman, a blog by my friend and colleague and fellow champion of women filmmakers, Marian Evans in New Zealand.  She’s brilliant and loves to hear from readers, filmmakers and others.  She also tweets @devt and posts at facebook.com/development.the.movie.

I’m looking for guest bloggers for December, January and, well, always.  If you are interested, please check out the Join in! page and email me.  If you’d like to do an interview, please also check out that page and get in contact.  If you’d like to come on board the Her Film team (which will be growing in 2012) as a contributor or in another capacity, reach out!

The Her Film News monthly newsletter, originally slated to premiere in November, will be placed on hold until January 2012.  For those of you who have signed up, many thanks, and it won’t be much longer you’ll have to wait!  If you would like to sign up, please head on over to the Newsletter page and click on the link to type in your email address.  Her Film News (HFN) will be one email per month all about new projects, interviews and guest posts on the blog, cool happenings in the film world and much more.

See you next month!

Keep building your audience…




BONESHAKER: Interview with filmmaker Frances Bodomo


Nuotama Frances Bodomo is a Ghanaian filmmaker based in New York City. She grew up on four continents—in Ghana, Norway, California, and Hong Kong—before moving to New York to attend Columbia University as a Kluge Scholar. She received her B.A. in English Literature and Film Studies in 2010. Her thesis focused on making African-generated images part of the popular image of Africa.

Her work features doppelgangers, imaginary friends, ventriloquist dummies, and the un-institutionalized crazies who constantly break society’s view of itself. Her ultimate goal is to make conceptually strong films that bring African images to the forefront. She is currently an MFA Candidate and Dean’s Fellow at NYU’s Graduate Film Program.

Her Film:  Can you talk about your latest project and the path that has led you to this point?
Frances Bodomo: I’m about to shoot a short film entitled Boneshaker. It follows a Ghanaian family taking a road trip to a Pentecostal church in Louisiana where they hope to cure their daughter of a spirit. It’s about the crazy person you become when you’re a mix of clashing cultures, and it’s about the difficulty of performing a ritual when you’re thousands of miles from home. I’m from Ghana, but I grew up all over the place (in Norway, in Hong Kong, and in the U.S.), so I’ve always wanted to make a film about how lost a person can feel without a sense of home, and how constant migration really tests the glue that holds a family together.
The story comes from my own experiences. When I went through my obligatory college depression, my Auntie took me round to various born-again churches to rid myself of the spirit following me. She explained it like this: I come from a family of only daughters, so my relatives in the village were jealous that all my parents’ resources were going towards the college education of someone who would be married off into another family. By affecting me like this, I would be mentally unable to stay in school and the resources would rightfully come back to them.

So I’m here now and I want to make a film that sheds light on this generally unseen experience. It’s the one experience that really streamlined my biography. It was about being a woman, about being African, and about being a nomad. It was life-changing, but I was also interested in how the task became about women physically fighting the patriarchal structure around them. It was something I got to experience with my mother, my aunts, my sisters, but also with my father and my culture. My father always says he became a feminist once his first daughter was born, and I really want to show that side in this film.

You see all I had to write to explain myself? This is why I’m making a movie!

Photo courtesy of the Kheel Center, Cornell University

HF:  One of your interests is African-generated images.  How do African images play a role in your work, especially concerning Boneshaker which shows a Ghanaian family in the deep American South (Louisiana)?

FB: My college thesis was about the power of Africans creating images for themselves, rather than relying on the Bob Geldofs and Bonos and Blood Diamonds and Hotel Rwandas that use Africa as a device to really reflect on Europe or America (to put it politely).  I think the very fact of Africans making films to regain their image—whether overtly or not—is a political one. This is not about excluding Europeans or Americans from the topic of Africa: Claire Denis makes complex films about Africa, but she also grew up on the continent.

Boneshaker doesn’t simply fit into all this because I am African and making a film. I want to create images that use America to reflect on Africa as a way of making visible the characters’ struggle. It’s about Africans trying to bend the American myth (the South, the delta…) to fit their own myth, and for their own purposes. They run into problems—problems that wouldn’t occur if it were the other way round—for this simple reason. I want it to be America as the “dark continent” and I want it to make at least some Americans feel something of what it’s like to have Band Aid speak of your home as a place “where the only water flowing is a bitter sting of tears.” Ultimately it’s not about a rebuttal—that would be hypocritical—it’s about using the very same mechanism to emphasize the difference in experience. It’s about showing an African interiority, which is the whole point of making films that come from Africans.

Photo courtesy of the filmmaker

HF:  Your film also deals with themes of immigration and alienation.  Can you talk about these themes and how you try to incorporate them into Boneshaker?

FB: Foreigners are always reminded that they are walking on someone else’s land, that they have the privilege of going back to “where they came from.” What of those of us who don’t have that place? Who also don’t have this place? I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m going to convey this sense of being lost using the cinematic tools at my disposal. Fun!

In Boneshaker, the family is constantly in motion: they’re in a car for a lot of the film. We’ll shoot them against sky and reference-less background, always moving. While we do establish space, they’re never going to be comfortable within it. The big word I’ve been throwing around for this film is nostalgia. I want the film to feel like a memory because it hits home the idea that we don’t have concrete land on which to place our feet. It’s also a huge reason why I want to shoot in Louisiana. The delta consists of specks of land submerged in water. It says everything I want it to say: there is no land. And we have to grapple with that fact.

HF:  As you move into pre-production, then production in December, what have you experienced (or what do you expect to experience) in terms of culture clash?  Does religion play a role in this type of clash as well?

FB: I just got back from my location scout in Louisiana. What a wonderful trip! Adjusting and assimilating is instinctive to me at this point (though I’m not entirely proud of that fact), so I had no problems moving around New Orleans and its neighbouring bayous. I did, however, have a hard time finding Africans down there. The Africans I did find gave the general response of, “I don’t socialize with other Africans here.” I felt most alienated and saddened by the dismissiveness of a majority of the people I approached. You feel most alienated when the people you have learned to call “yours” want nothing to do with you. In retrospect, I find this extremely interesting. It’s exactly what my film is about (with regards to the people at home sending a spirit) and I intend to use it. It solidifies why I want to shoot down there.

I didn’t find a community in Louisiana, but I found one in the Bronx. I spent September going to a Pentecostal/born-again church on Sundays. I went to a Ghanaian deliverance ministry in the Bronx and got prayed over. These were some of the most welcoming people I’ve experienced in my research. I’m shooting in an African deliverance ministry in Louisiana (hopefully Dr. Stella’s Fire Power Ministries) so there won’t be much of that black-family-going-into-a-white-church kind of clash. I’m more interested in being rejected by the people you feel you should connect with.

Photo courtesy of the filmmaker

HF:  What are your thoughts on the role of women in African-made films (both as filmmakers and actors) and how they are received by the larger world community?

FB: This is another thesis! Women play a huge role in the story of Boneshaker. We have a family of only daughters, and I explained why that’s significant. This underlying situation suggests the reason why the Mother character believes her daughter is possessed. It also puts the film in the hands of the matriarch. This is important to me because women in Nollywood (and its off-shoots) are still reduced to objects of desire: how many pans across glossy, shaved legs have I had to sit through? That’s why I’m excited to make this film in which a woman is the driving force and is moving to protect her daughters.

But I’m intensely optimistic about up-and-coming African female filmmakers. Julie Apea and Shirley Frimpong-Manso in Ghana are making the highest-quality films in the country. Outside the continent we have wonderful women like Akosua Adoma Owusu, Sam Kessie, Nikyatu Jusu, and Rungano Nyoni (to name a few) changing the game. The larger world community may not be listening yet, may be thinking, “oh, here’s another film about being a black woman,” and rolling their eyes to oblivion. But check their films out! We’re on the brink of something big.

HF:  What is it that you hope to achieve as a filmmaker with Boneshaker?

FB: First and foremost, I want this to be the film for people like me: people that have always felt positively lost and homeless. It’s a beautiful thing to live outside the false security of home. This goes for anyone. We live in a world with so much migration and movement that the idea of home is arbitrary at best (across the board, class and privilege considered). I think this idea of existing in an undefined—but also very much defined by concrete microaggression—space is central to what it feels like to live on this earth and in this century, so let’s talk about that.

I want these concepts to come from an African story and an African voice. Because, to put it in a cheesy way, we’re nomads (traditionally, and given the slave trade, colonization, and subsequent brain drain).  When your entire continent is so painfully and continuously devastated, you’re forced to move around. I want African voices to be at the forefront of the international discourse on what it feels like to be in this world today (goodbye to looking to Africa for heritage films, issues films, and images of primitivity).

So yeah, I’ve got small goals.


Learn more about Boneshaker and filmmaker Frances Bodomo by visiting the Kickstarter campaign now with eight days left and in need of about $3,000.

Kickstarter for Boneshaker

Follow Frances Bodomo on twitter @tobogganeer

Women’s stories this week

The first annual Adrienne Shelly Foundation Woman of Vision Salute was held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City on November 2 to honor the achievements of filmmaker Nicole Holofcener.  The event included a talk with Holofcener hosted by Catherine Keener. On November 1, the Foundation launched an ebay auction with a host of big names in entertainment (Rosario Dawson, Jon Hamm and others) to help raise money for the work of the Foundation.  The Adrienne Shelly Foundation supports many organizations in their funding of women filmmakers and women in film.  An excerpt from the ASF’s mission statement reads:  “The Adrienne Shelly Foundation supports the artistic achievements of female actors, writers and directors through a series of scholarships and grants…”

The ASF was set up in 2006 by Andy Ostroy in remembrance of his late wife’s work as an actress and filmmaker as a way to support the work of women filmmakers.  Adrienne Shelly was murdered in 2006 while she was writing in her downtown New York office.  Her death affected me greatly, having been a long-time admirer of hers and inspired in many, many ways by the first film I saw her in, Hal Hartley’s 1990 film Trust.  November 1 marks the date of her death.  Adrienne Shelly was 40 years old.

After years of working as an actress, she went on to write and direct, most famously the huge success Waitress, starring Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, Andy Griffith, Jeremy Sisto and Nathan Fillion. (Cheryl Hines later directed Serious Moonlight written by Adrienne Shelly.)  Andy Ostroy wrote an article in the Huffington Post earlier this week in honor of the five year anniversary of Adrienne Shelly’s death.  Also, take a look at a video below of Shelly talking about her inspiration for the film Waitress.

“The War We Are Living,” the fourth film in the five-part PBS documentary series Women, War and Peace aired on Tuesday.  This film focused on Afro-Colombian women in a resource-rich area of Colombia whose land was under threat from internal and foreign corporations and miners.  Colombia’s history of paramilitary groups fighting with guerrilla groups devastated the country and residual effects are still being felt.  Many people within the community of Toma were threatened by terrorist groups in order to force them to leave so the land could be taken over.  These groups also killed many community members in an attempt to scare them away from their communities.

Two women, Clemencia Carabali and Francia Marquez, were strong and vociferous leaders in the community who opposed the terrorism.  They helped to organize their fellow community members to oppose the government’s deferral of responsibility when it came to revoking mining rights given to Hector Sarria under the false pretenses of there not being any Afro-Colombian community in the area (Toma) with whom he should confer to receive the community’s approval.  By saying on paper that there was no Black community in Toma, the government helped to make these Afro-Colombian communities invisible and allowed people with no authority to mine in the area.  Under Colombian law, Afro-Colombians have legal protections.  But the community stood up and said “No,” and the government was forced to back down.

If you missed this episode, you can watch it online at PBS.  The fifth and final film (“War Redefined”)  in the Women, War and Peace series will air on Tuesday, November 8.  You can tweet along during the show by labeling your tweets with #wwplive and follow the series on twitter @WomenWarPeace and Abigail Disney, Executive Producer of the series @AbigailDisney.

Wellywood Woman: For women who make movies.                                                      And for the people who love them.

Marian Evans, author of the blog, Wellywood Woman, penned a gorgeous piece last week about the Mumbai International Film Festival and the seeming increase in support for women filmmakers.  She explores this topic with a journalist as well as explores the films and lives of various women filmmakers to try to find some answers as to why.  In 2010, the Mumbai International Film Festival (MAMI for short) had an all-female jury headed by renowned filmmaker, Jane Campion, and the 2011 festival had a large number of films made by women.

Read Marian’s article, “Going Global via MAMI” and follow her on twitter @devt and on Facebook at Development the Movie.

It was announced recently that there will not be a Birds Eye View Film Festival in 2012.  Last year, the UK Film Council closed and as a result, BEV is unable to continue with its plans for a 2012 festival.  From the BEV website: “Over the past few years, the UK Film Council supported the Birds Eye View Film Festival through their Film Festivals Fund and Diversity Grant in Aid. Since the closure of the Film Council, funds have transferred to the BFI. As yet, there is no provision for either Festivals or Diversity, leaving BEV with a 90% drop in public funds.”

This is a huge loss, but I have no doubt that BEV will be back in 2013.  There is a great informative FAQ-type page on the BEV website you can read here which talks about their plans and how the public can help.  This story isn’t getting nearly enough attention, if you ask me, especially because this is just one of the effects of the closure of the UK Film Council which was predicted.  The closure was a move opposed by many in the industry, including Mike Leigh, one of England’s leading filmmakers (and admired around the world) whose films have depended on the Council.  You can read some mentions in the press below and follow BEV on twitter @BirdsEyeViewFF.

“We can’t run our film festival next year — but we’ll be back” (2 Nov 2011, The Guardian)

“Birds Eye View Festival 2012 cancelled due to funding cuts” (27 Oct 2011, Screen Daily)