72. Berlinale 2022
Shabu sings and drums, dances and laughs, though his heart is heavy. His beloved grandmother, head of the Dutch-Caribbean family, won’t talk to him, of all people, ever since he took her car out on the sly for a disastrous joyride. Director Shamira Raphaëla creates a virtually symbiotic sense of closeness to her unique protagonist. At the same time, she portrays the place he calls home, Rotterdam’s notorious De Peperklip housing project, as a vibrant, pulsing microcosm overflowing with energy.
Hi Shamira thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?
I am doing well, thank you. I’m very happy that the Berlinale decided to go ahead with the festival and signal that culture is essential, especially during these times
SHABU won Best Youth Documentary Award at the IDFA 2021, did you imagine your film would get such incredible recognition and what has won this award meant to you?
I never think about awards or recognition when making a film, as my main objective is to make film that does justice to my characters and their stories. I am honoured that we won, as I hope that this will give a signal to other filmmakers and encourage them to step away from the dominant narrative of films about marginalised people, no poverty-porn, no victim-voyeurism, The IDFA award shows that feel good stories are just as valuable and wanted,
Congratulations on having SHABU in the Generation Kplus section of the Berlinale 2022, what does it mean to you to be able to show your documentary at the festival?
Be able to screen this documentary at the Berlinale is big deal for me and my team. While we were writing, editing and shooting, we also had the Berlinale as end goal in our minds. To be living and experiencing this moment, together with Shabu here in Berlin, is an absolute joy
How did you get introduced to Shabu and what was it about his story that connected with you as a filmmaker?
I initially had planned to make a film about the dreams and aspirations of four young teenagers living in the Peperklip flat. Shabu was one of them. But literally one day before we started shooting Shabu called me; he said he can’t participate anymore as he got himself into big trouble joyriding his grandma’s car. He was grounded for the whole summer, so decided to throw out the initial script and to make a film solely about him.
What were some of the challenges you faced bringing SHABU to life and what would you say has been the biggest lesson you have taken away from this experience?
To be honest, this was the easiest film I’ve ever made, I normally choose heavy subjects and I am the type of director that totally emerges herself in that world. This film especially was a joy to make as Shabu’s universe was so full of fun and joy. His family embraced me as one of their own, so it was a heart warming experience which I feel shines through in the whole (post)process of this film.
"It is of uttermost importance to stand your ground, to fight these battles. Although it may be exhausting, we owe it to our audience."
It's rare to find a documentary like SHABU that gives time, space and voice to a young black boy and his community that doesn't follow this perceived societal stereotyped view of black boys. Did you feel any pressure or apprehensions about making SHABU and sharing such an uplifting and beautifully touching story?
I consciously stepped away from this harmful stereotyped way that the media often portrays Black boys, as we as a society and as individuals, internalise the stories that we tell, with all the negative consequences that come with that. I felt it was important to balance out the existing group of films about the Caribbean Diaspora. To my surprise the biggest fans don’t come from the intended age group 10-12 year olds, but are grown men, who recognise themselves in Shabu’s coming of age story, his vulnerability and his vibrance.
Do you think more minority filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?
I think the only way to change the eco system of our film-world, is to keep pushing our own narratives, instead of being forced to tell our stories through the eyes/lenses and perception of others. It is of uttermost importance to stand your ground, to fight these battles. Although it may be exhausting, we owe it to our audience.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I’ve known from a young age that I wanted to be a story teller, I feel we all come in to this life with a mission, and mine is to be a translator between worlds. I feel very blessed that I get the chance to create, surrounded with a team of wonderfully talented people.
And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from SHABU?
I hope Shabu will inspire young kings to realize that’s its alright to be yourself, that vulnerability can co- exist together with strength and confidence. I hope this film will come to audiences that are not from this background, a more kaleidoscopic view on Caribbean diaspora life.