Thursday, April 1, 2010

The lives of African immigrants explored in 'Soul Diaspora'

"Soul Diaspora," a new feature film by Nigerian filmmaker Odera Ozoka, recently won the Audience Favorite Narrative Feature Award at the annual Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, California.

The film centers on the life of Saidu, a Fulani/Nigerian immigrant living in Los Angeles. His life of solitude as an African immigrant is interwoven with memories of trauma in Nigeria.

Ozoka, who wrote, directed and produced the film, succeeds in making the character's loneliness palpable on screen.

As the film progresses, a variety of characters intersect with Saidu's life, each affected by their own memories and loneliness. Some come to play important roles in his life, such as the Afghan father and son, owners of a car repair shop, and an exotic dancer, Latisha, with whom Saidu finds the possibility of love. Latisha has her own wounds and through their relationship he begins to deal with some of the pain associated with his family in Nigeria.

His relationship with the repair shop owner, Ziman, and his son, Reza, evolves into a strange but strong friendship strengthened by his isolation in Los Angeles and their shared immigrant experiences.

Their lives are changed by the September 11 attacks that trigger feelings of patriotism, anger and fear, forcing Saidu to make some life-changing decisions.

Odera Ozoka shot the film over the course of 10 days in the Los Angeles area and blends powerful, sometimes uncomfortable images to tell a story that is as far removed from Hollywood as it is from Nollywood.

Saidu is played by Fulani actor Sadiq Abu, who manages to reflect the complexities of this conflicted and at times humorous man.

Ozoka has several other projects lined up. He is currently working on a pilot for a television show called Maison Blanch, a
comedy about an African-immigrant couple living in the US who decide to start a new business.

He is also working on two feature film projects. One is a drama set in Houston, Texas, and the other a film set in Nigeria's Niger-Delta.

Ozoka is excited about shooting a film in Nigeria. The film will focus on the impact of violence in the region and the planned action drama will be a mix between Blood Diamond and Munich.

He also works on projects with Sacred Drum Company, a coalition of pan-African artists that produce several projects a year, including films and plays.

All Africa

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