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Where did this new anthology film Juju Stories come from?
We come from a world saturated with supernatural tales, and stories of mysticism, to the point where it is almost perceived as normal. And so, Juju Stories came from the desire for the collective to explore these tales through a visual and more universal lens, without necessarily placing conventional ideas of good or evil on these images and symbols.
What are the artistic challenges you pursue with your collective Surreal16?
I think we face the same challenges that any filmmaker or anyone going against what is considered to be the norm. In our world, we are constantly being told we are not commercial or accessible, but we reject such a hypothesis. On the contrary, I think what we do and are trying to do as a collective is necessary and relevant. I think the definition of what is commercial or accessible is not monolithic.
How difficult is it, in today's context, to carry forward the banner of a new African cinema?
I try not to think of it as ‘carrying a banner’ but more of filling up a gap. Right now, there is an expectation for African cinema. Almost a kind of ‘comfort’ in knowing what to expect as far as filmmaking from Africa, especially where Nigeria is concerned. And when you’re in that space, there’s a need to experiment or innovate. It becomes almost a necessity, even.
Yours is a multi-story journey into the world of magic. What value does magic maintain in the collective imagination?
Magic is a western word for anything that exceeds the human imagination, and in this way, we connect to it, especially as a collective exploring surreal themes. However, “Juju” has a much more layered connotation. And in exploring Juju, you dive deeper into what makes people think, into the very core of their being. So, in a way, it does the opposite of what magic is known to do. Magic goes away and beyond, while Juju goes deeper and within, I think.
How important is it for your films to find space and visibility in international festivals such as Locarno?
It’s everything. Festivals like Locarno are forward-thinking and progressive in action, and when they come along, they offer a platform that’s not only huge but also a stamp that says that what we do deserves a place alongside any or everything else that’s being celebrated in the world of cinema. And like I said, that’s everything.
Interview by Lorenzo Buccella