14th BFI FUTURE FILM FESTIVAL, 2021

"THE FILM INDUSTRY CAN BE RATHER EGOTISTICAL IN THINKING THAT THEY POSSESS THE RIGHT TO TELL OTHER PEOPLE'S STORIES."

Simisolaoluwa Akande
Black [Dudu]
Documentary 
Section: THE REAL ME 

Black [Dudu] screens as part of the BFI Future Film Festival from 18-21 February, free on BFI Player

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Dudu means Black in Yoruba. This experimental documentary focuses on the effect colourism can have on one's sense of self, and the importance of representation on screen. An unseen narrator delivers a spoken word poem while evocative and striking imagery flashes into view, showing the many sides of contemporary blackness. Dudu is a joyous and beautiful celebration of black skin in all its complexions.

Hi Simisolaoluwa thank you for talking to TNC, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?

Hello, thank you for talking with me. I want to say I have been super productive and started exercising but that would be a lie. I have, however, taken this time to get well acquainted with doing nothing (it is harder than it seems). 

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?

In doing nothing I have become a more active observer. I pay a lot of attention of how my eyes moves when I’m interacting with my family and friends, to see what it is in these interactions I gravitate towards. Right now, I have noticed that it is often towards people’s hands. So, doing not much and seeing more will hopefully make its way into my work visually. 

Congratulations on having Black [Dudu] selected for the BFI Future Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of The Real Me section?

Thank you so much! A lot of the work I create seem to be very geared towards question of identity. What make this theme fun is that identity is so malleable and fluid. Ever growing ever changing and it’s really interesting to documents these battles we have between our internal selves and our external performances. 

Can you tell me a little bit about Black [Dudu], how did this film come about?

The film came about from experiencing the world in a way all too familiar for women with dark skin tones. I struggle finding beauty in my skin. Dudu was the first real film I have ever made, and it seemed appropriate for the first thing I would represent to be the very thing that had been so lacking in my other engagements with cinema, dark skin. The spoken word element is highly auto biographical and retells how one goes from loving their mothers’ beautiful dark skin to learning how to despise your own. The visuals were more a celebration of the women in my life, for it is often easier to find beauty in things and people outside of ourselves, and through them we can recognize the beauty within us. 

What where the biggest challenges you faced brining this film to life?

The biggest obstacle in all of my work in my short career seems to be me myself. I am painfully insecure about my abilities as a filmmaker, and this often gets in the way of me committing myself to a project. It is rather ironic that even with these insecurities I consistently create work that is deeply revealing and personal. 

"Dudu was the first time that I learnt how to see myself differently through the camera lens..."

Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?

This was my very first film, so there is almost a million things I would have done differently. The main one was to ask help from people who were more technically skilled than me. But I know that during this time I was trying to prove to myself that film really was the right path for me. 

What was the biggest lesson you’ve taken away from making Black [Dudu]?

I seem to have this bad habit of making films about internal conflicts that I am struggling with. Instead of doing the sensible thing and seeing a therapist or something I use film instead.  The benefits are however, that I get to learn a lot about myself and the people around me from the work I make. Dudu was the first time that I learnt how to see myself differently through the camera lens, and the person that I saw wasn’t singular but multiple. 

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

I originally wanted to be a singer and then an actress. I remember I wanted so badly to be on Disney channel, but one day I came to understand that people like me do not appear on Disney channel. Nobody had to tell me, but I knew that when I didn’t see any other fat little black girls on my TV screen, that it was because this was simply a space not made for me. So, my attention turned to behind the camera, where I could invite everyone and anyone to create a brand-new space where we could come together to kiss our wounds and begin the journey of telling our stories.   

How different was your approach to Black [Dudu] compared to your award-winning debut short Ojumo Ti Mo?

Dudu is very different from Ojumo Ti Mo because of the responsibility. Dudu was a personal diary entry. But Ojumo Ti Mo had the weight and responsibility of handling my family’s trauma. It is here that I began to understand my place in the filmmaking process. I am no amazing visionary nor storyteller on my own, nor is it my place to tell other people’s stories. Instead, I learnt that the gift I have is of invitation; inviting others to create a safe space with me so that they can say for themselves what they feel must be said. Ojumo Ti Mo was where I realized that film for me, was about creating art through community. Like the saying goes: it takes a village to raise a child, in the same way I believe that it takes a village to create good work. 

"Their faith in my work brings me unbelievable amount of strength to even attempt to share our stories."

Will you continue to work on documentary film, or will you like to move into other genres?

I do not want to box myself off quite yet. I have only been making films for a short time and I want to try all the flavors the medium can offer!

What has been some of the best advice you’ve been give?

The best advice I have been given, wasn’t necessarily an advice but it was more an experience. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by people in my life that see my potential before I ever could. Their faith in my work brings me unbelievable amount of strength to even attempt to share our stories. Having such a community is essential. 

Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?

Of course! We all must work to push ourselves in our work. One thing I am very interested in right now is the concept of community creation. The film industry can be rather egotistical in thinking that they possess the right to tell other people’s stories. But right now, simply representing is not enough, as filmmakers it should be our jobs to help others tell their own stories, in their own voices. 

Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

I would say: consider how much richer your work could be if it were made by many hands and sang by many voices. Opening your work to others is the biggest risk you could take, and I would advise you to take it. 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Black [Dudu]?

I hope that people recognise the contradiction between the beautiful images and the rather sad story that is being spoken underneath. In many ways it’s a story of how one comes to lose sight of themselves when the world snatches their body away from them.  I hope they see the potential for film to be a site of healing for the very people it had oppressed for so long.

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