Friday, 28 August 2015

A Forgotten Place- Feature Film By Odera Ozoka & Ashley Ellis.

Earlier this year while attending Cannes Film Festival and having the time of my life I had the pleasure of meeting amazing filmmakers from all over the world. It is good to meet people and have conversation but it is even better to secure working relationships and true friendships. It brings me such pleasure to write about the two people on Filmbugg. Meet Odera Ozoka and Ashley Ellis. This duo is working on an amazing project that I am so excited about it. They have teamed up to create Odera’s vision, his feature film A Forgotten Place.

I remember seeing Odera and Ashley at the South African tent in Cannes and again at the South African party and I remember thinking how 'pretty that mixed race South African girl looks'. We met properly a little while later though and started chatting. Ashley had told me the Intention of attending Cannes was to secure funding and partnerships with various production companies especially across Africa because of their feature film. This raised my Interests, we exchanged cards and have kept in contact ever since.

Odera and Ashley, are Los-Angeles based. The film is set to be shot across Africa namely South Africa and Nigeria. They have been doing some location scouting and holding castings at this phase of production.   

Odera and Ashley with Milly Moabi. South African Producer who is working with them for the South African leg of  the Production.

 A Forgotten Place is a narrative feature film set during the Nigerian Civil War. As the Nigerian army kills Igbos &occupies major towns in Biafra. Three human beings, a Young boy, a Woman and a Wounded soldier cross paths in a volatile and dangerous Biafra as they walk their path. The story moves between reality and surrealism, creating worlds within the tale. A story of war, pain, the human spirit and survival A Forgotten Place is an African tale that will without a doubt be unforgettable.

Here is an Interview with Ashley and Odera to get more of an idea of their vision and what is in store for A Forgotten Place.

Odera Ozoka- Director.

When was the very first time you had the idea for A Forgotten Place? How did that spark come to you and what was the Inspiration?

Odera Ozoka:
The idea of telling A Forgotten Place came to me right after my first feature film won the audience award at Pan African Film Festival back in 2010. I had been thinking of a story to immerse myself in and get involved with and couldn't quite figure out what that would be until I went to Nigeria to visit after being away for 10 years. I completely fell in love with my country again, and had a profound experience while visiting for 3 months. Immediately I knew I wanted to tell a story that will be filmed in the country and that really got me going. So there you have it, falling in love with the country, it's hard working citizens, the cultures and food all accumulated in getting me focused on the path of telling the Biafran story.

As a Director and Storyteller, what is the creative vision you have for the film.

A lot of what I have planned visually cannot be talked about or better yet should not be talked about because it would ruin the surprise! I will say this though, Ashley and I are putting together an amazing group of talent from all walks of Africa and beyond. From musicians, to painters. From architects, to costume designers.  Different talents will be collaborating on this film, so I am looking forward to working with some great talent from all over the continent. This will be an African film inside out, but I will be assisted by an international crew that brings a universal knowledge in every facet of Cinema. Their collaboration with me will help elevate my film to a world standard so that's exciting. Finally on a personal level for me, I want to tell a damn good cinematic story, one that doesn't shy away from our history, but instead embraces our past because it's the only way to understand our future.

The tale is that of a journey of three individuals heading towards their own destinations. What is the scale of the production as you would like to see it.

The exciting challenge with a film like this, is balancing two important levels. On one hand, I have to protect the core of the film-which is the human element of the story dealing with three main individuals as they struggle to survive war intact, transcending hate to hopefully finding the common good that exists in all of us. On the other hand I want to say to the world ‘You have not seen Africa yet’, and I want to show you it's beauty. I mean this continent has so much natural Beauty that I hope to capture as many of it as possible. That aspect of the story telling I promise, will be grand. It will be a spectacle.

You are a Nigerian filmmaker, how personal is this story to you?

The story is very personal to me. My parent survived the war. But sadly a lot of other sons and children can't say the same. So this story is for them, and those who gave their life in the struggle. I am very passionate about this story because it is mine as a Nigerian, but ours as Africans and understanding what happened in the past, is the only way to understanding how to tackle our future especially for the younger generations who are being born into this complex world.

You talk about the film not just being a film, you want it to drive conversation. What is the intention of the film for you, where and who would you like to see it reach and if applicable what would be the 'Movement' for A Forgotten Place?

I'd certainly love the film to reach Africans in Africa, and the diaspora. Blacks in America and around the world and finally other people of colour, who are curios and open to seeing a human story told from an Africans point of view. My intention with this film is varied. Most importantly like I mentioned on our website A Forgotten Place, is a story that will start a real and much needed conversation if we let it, because there are still a lot of unanswered questions, and a lot of healing  that needs to be done. This film hopefully starts that train so we as a country and nation end up being better off for it down the line.

Ashley Elllis- Producer.

What is the current status of the production?

Ashley Ellis:
We've just officially started pre-production, which means that we have lots to do! We're in negotiations with investors and business partners. We are busy assembling the right team of creative’s and key crew, and are just about to embark on location scouting across Nigeria, South Africa and regions near the two countries. Casting is another aspect of the project that we're very excited to announce soon. It's lots of hard work, but they're all inspiring parts of the filmmaking process. We're also launching a campaign on Seed & Spark, an amazing platform for indie filmmakers, and we encourage everyone to get involved and support us!

What is it about the film that made you a believer and join the team?

This is something that I recently wrote about in my producer's statement (of sorts). Today, when there are emerging film industries the world over, in a lot of ways it's never been more challenging to take a project from a concept to a wide audience. Independent producing is long, hard work and requires so much perseverance. I only work on stories that are very important to me and will sustain me. I make films, because I want to tell stories that make people reflect upon where humanity has been and challenge them to think about their personal role in where we are going, the shared human experience that will be our future. A Forgotten Place does both of those things. The Biafran War is the setting and of the utmost importance for the people of Nigeria to discuss, but the story has contemporary relevance across Africa and the world over, in countries that are experiencing conflict or a continued struggle for economic and cultural independence post colonialism.
As a creative, I was also really intrigued by all of the elements of the story that we get to bring to life, from whole villages that we'll construct to traditional Nigerian masquerade costumes, to the music and sounds, the film is ripe with history, culture, art, colour, and texture, and we get the opportunity to create a visual experience that is entirely new and unique.
Odera and I have known each other for many years, and I've always had the utmost respect for him as an artist. The film presented an opportunity for me to do what I love and also work with Odera for the first time.

I understand that the film would like to be shot in three different parts of Africa. As a producer what needs to be done to ensure that all this takes place.

We're still discussing locations, but we know that we'll be shooting in Nigeria and South Africa, and are searching for some specific landscapes, possibly in other countries on the continent as well. You know, Africa is just ripe with natural beauty, so the biggest challenge that we have there is staying focused despite the overwhelming amount of options! After narrowing down the specific locations, there's a ton of moving parts. We have to find the right local partners who know the lay of the land, crew that is experienced working in these environments, and we have to take into account all of the challenges of bringing necessary equipment into some of the most rural of locations. As the producer, it's my responsibility to assemble all of the pieces that will make production run as smoothly as possible.

You have come to Africa before on your own film project, you were in Botswana. Your interest for Africa is alive and active. What hopes do you have for A Forgotten Place that has a true African storyline.

Yes, I was lucky enough to direct my very first film in Botswana, After We Lost Shima which after many years, will be released by the year's end. Making that film was an incredible experience that cemented my desire to tell stories of the diaspora, but as a documentary, it is a very different project than A Forgotten Place. While my film was made by a small crew and focuses on a very specific community and subject, A Forgotten Place is much more expansive in narrative and as a production. My hope is that it is truly a Pan-African project with diversity in shooting locations, business partners, artistic talents, and crew that reflects this. My hope is that it shows the world the cinematic excellence that Nollywood has to offer. And my hope is that it captivates a global audience and adds to a new wave of interest in stories from the continent and African diaspora.
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You and Odera attended The Cannes Film Festival 2015.Going in what were your intentions and having walked away, how effective was the time spent there in line with the production.

We really didn't know what to expect from the experience, because it was the first time that either of us had attended the festival and film market. The production team worked really hard to sift through thousands of companies listed in order to find those who are like-minded, and we just took a chance and started reaching out. We also joined the Producer's Workshop. The result was excellent. We had many successful meetings, met young filmmakers from around the world, and are already working with some of the contacts we established on A Forgotten Place. We posted some helpful tips for filmmakers planning their first Cannes trip on our FB page too.  

Filmbugg will be part of the journey as I chronicle the progress of Forgotten Place that will most certainly get bigger as time moves.


Ashley Ellis attended the University of Southern California where her passion for filmmaking was realized and issues such as human rights, social justice and conservation are close to her heart.
Ashley directed and produced her first film, After We Lost Shima, in northern Botswana.....
Full information on the website.  

Odera Ozoka is a filmmaker who believes in art at all costs. Born in Benin, Nigeria, Odera moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream as an actor, but became passionate about directing while attending The New York Film Academy.
After graduating, he wrote his third feature film script and began prep on what would be his directorial debut, which became the twelve-day shoot Soul Diaspora. He went on to produce plays with the theater company Sacred Drum Theater and was part of the producing team of the film Ije.......
Full information on the website.

Raise Funds.
At this stage raising funds is high priority. Show support by going to the site and giving and spreading the word. 
Seed and Spark for fund raising. 

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