Ninah's Dowry, Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.October 17, 2012
I’m in Heathrow airport, terminal 5, between flights traveling to Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival 2012. I’m excited to be going to Miami, apart from the obvious break in the Irish weather and a reminder of what sun feels like on my skin, it’s a leap forward in my documentary – The Directors.
‘The Directors’ is a feature documentary I started four years ago. About 3 days after my beloved father Frank passed away, I woke up and realized, quite naturally life is short, but also – that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing with mine. After 10 years studying and working in film in the States, I’d thrown in the towel and headed back to Dublin…my parents weren’t growing any younger and wanted me home and there wasn’t much promise back out in L.A. and so I’d returned and settled for shooting still photography at rock gigs. A great job – but I yearned suddenly to be back in film. I’d been lucky as I graduated from the masters program at University of Southern California, and had been hired to write a script for Irish Director Jim Sheridan (God bless him!). The script was an adaptation of a Spanish film ‘Tesis’ which he then attached me to direct – a dream come true! But alas the dream wilted after a year of running around Hollywood – trying to secure 4 million dollars in financing, no financiers taking a big enough bite (God damn them!). A while after that, I returned home to Ireland. But that morning, I thought of all my friends who had graduated out of U.S.C and N.Y.U. production programs, still out there in Hollywood. And then, I had an epiphany - that’s my film! All the directors I knew who graduated with me and were still out there in Los Angeles trying to make the (near) impossible dream happen!
I bought myself a HD camera – signed onto a course on how to use it, flew to Los Angeles and started calling every talented person I knew out in Hollywood struggling to make a career of directing; badgering them to see if I could follow them over the next 5 years of their lives. Some said ‘Hell, no!’, some thankfully said ‘Yes!’ and then later “Hell, no!” and some thankfully, thankfully said ‘Yes!’ and stuck with it over the past four years with me.
One such Director, was a native of Cameroon, Victor Viyuoh. We had graduated from U.S.C. together. When I first started filming Victor he was living in a South Central apartment with a young son Jacob, and his wife Jackie, both holding down multiple jobs and trying to make ends meet. Upon graduation he had, had great success with his Thesis film MBOUTOUKOU, getting it into the Kodak International Student Film Competition and it went on to win a short in the Cannes festival. He then was stuck in the cycle of talking to production company’s on the heat of that success- fighting hard to get his next project off the ground. With the all too familiar story of close calls and deals falling through, he never gave up… He finally determined to return to his home country of Cameroon, to shoot a feature based on a true story of his Cousin, and the terrible situations that can arise from the lack of women’s rights in his native Africa. He pulled together the money from his own scant savings, and headed home , leaving his wife and newborn twins in South Central for 6 months to make the film a reality. The tragic story of the trials he went through are hard to believe. His camera stolen, his set burnt down the day before filming, trial after tribulation – but it became an incredible tale of faith over tragedy…and the generosity and dedication of his Cameroonian Cast and Crew (who were paid only with food) he has completed ‘Ninah’s Dowry’.
I got the call from Victor – a month ago – his feature had been accepted into the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival 2012 and was making it’s world debut premiere on October 21st.
I’m in the airport now.
I’m so happy to see Victor victorious. I know the stoney road he’s taken to get here. Skyping with him this morning I asked him what was he hoping to come from this festival? expecting him to say something along the lines of I’d hope to find some distribution, meet some Producers for future projects…but he said ‘To sit in a room with people and just watch and enjoy this with them’. That’s the soul of a true filmmaker – an artist with a small, not capitial, ‘A’…someone who’s broken his back to simply share his story. I can’t wait to join him. Thirty more minutes before my flight takes off…