The multi award-winning film maker Akin Omotoso first made his screen debut in 2003, as the Director and Screenwriter of the South African melodrama God Is African. His 2016 film, Vaya, received its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016 to widespread critical acclaim, which saw him earn the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Director. Akin has continued his winning streak with his gritty, moving film – The Ghost And The House Of Truth which recently won the Best World Narrative Feature at The Urban World Film Festival in New York, winning awards in three major categories including Best Nigerian Film, Best Director, and Best Actress for Kate Henshall-Nuttall. It receives its European premiere at the Film Africa festival on Friday 30 October at BFI Southbank.
Set in Lagos, Nigeria, the film follows Bola Ogun (Susan Wokoma), a single mother and dedicated counsellor who brokers reconciliation sessions between convicts and their victims. But when her 10 year old daughter Nike (Imoleayo Olusanya) goes missing after school, Bola finds herself in the role of vigilante, thanks to an ineffectual justice system who are unable to move forward with their enquiries. Her only hope is to find answers through her closest ally – the feisty pregnant Police Inspector Folashade (played by Kate Henshaw-Nuttall) who is nicknamed ‘stainless’ for her strength, resilence and skilled precision in The Child Protection Unit of Lagos. What follows is a tenuous chase across Lagos to catch her child’s ‘abductor’ only to find all is not what it seems.
Akin shared some of his thoughts about the making of The Ghost & The House of Truth ahead of this month’s European premiere at the Film Africa festival at The BFI Southbank.
‘I first came across Brian Tilley and Roger Smith’s wonderful script for The Ghost & The House of Truth in 2007 and instantly loved it. In 2016, I had just completed A Hotel Called Memory with my Executive Producer Ego Boyo. We wanted to collaborate on something else and I presented this story to her and she was very excited. One of the things I changed from Brian and Roger’s original script was the gender of the Detective. In their script it was a man and I changed it to a woman. I brought Tracy Whitaker on board the project to do some additional writing and it was her idea to make Folashade pregnant which was a brilliant idea.
The one thing we wanted to do, was to immerse the audience in the world of Makoko. So that meant that we had to be immersed in the world of Makoko. We shot the film in January 2018 but from July 2016 the DP Kabelo Thathe and I had already started visiting Makoko to learn from the community. One of our scenes shows a collision between village boats during a chase sequence led by Folashade, but we didn’t hire a bunch of extras who were waiting for their cue, it was the reaction of the local community who joined in, and we knew something spontaneous would happen on set because of the amount of time we spent with them on location.
Folashade is someone that is facing an uphill battle against corruption (which accounts for her nickname ‘Stainless’), yet, against all the odds, she isn’t afraid to bring new life into the world and Kate Henshaw-Nuttall brings all these conflicting emotions to the screen in a beautiful and humane way. She represents a strong woman who doesn’t quit, no matter what obstacles she faces from the ‘system’.
Ultimately, we create stories together. Me by making the film as a storyteller, and you experiencing and enjoying the story. Let me finish by quoting my South African filmmaking colleague, Ernest Nkosi: ‘I made it. Receive it. It’s yours.’
The Ghost & The House of Truth opens up Film Africa 2020
The festival runs between 30 October 2020 – 8 November 2020
Physical screenings: BFI Southbank and Rich Mix
Online screenings: BFI Player