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Meet the Filmmakers: Bakia Thomas

This year’s Greenwood Film Festival hosts another round of extremely talented filmmakers who have produced meaningful and inspiring films that bring truthful storytelling to the big screen. Audiences can expect entertainment, education, laughter, and tears all wrapped in one event. But it doesn’t stop there. GFF is further bridging the gap between filmmaker and audience that usually doesn’t make it past the movie screen. With this series, Meet the Filmmakers, anyone and everyone will be able to connect more with the voices behind the film, the visionaries, and the creatives alike by hearing their stories.

It’s a seat at the table with the great minds of today who are using their talents to embolden those that fear, encourage those that’ve been rejected, and to push everyone to grow. No matter how big the mountains are, we must continue to climb and overcome. There’s no one better to share this sentiment than Nigerian filmmaker Bakia Thomas, who has had his own share of experiences and history that greatly fueled his passion to create his feature film The Rising Sun.

BAKIA THOMAS

Summary of Film:

The Rising Sun” is a captivating historical Event set in the 1700s, highlighting the soaring demand for palm oil, known as Red Gold, in West Africa and its exportation to Great Britain. In the heart of the Bight of Biafra, an Igbo woman emerges as a fearless advocate, defying British oppression even at the risk of her own life.

Inspired by true events, the story follows the protagonist as she endeavors to unite the influential Arochukwu and NRI Kingdoms, aiming to resist the encroaching British presence. However, her efforts face a daunting challenge when she is approached by an unexpected stranger— the son of her own enslaver, the man she reluctantly refers to as her master. This mysterious figure offers his assistance, but can she trust him as she strives to liberate her people and restore their dignity in the land of THE RISING SUN?

Interview:

We are excited to welcome Bakia and his film, The Rising Sun, to the GFF family. Before we get into this pivotal film, tell us Bakia a little bit about yourself.

Growing up in a small village with a population of about 300 people, I faced the daunting task of self-reliance after losing my parents at a young age. Education was a luxury I couldn’t afford, and taking on the responsibilities of both a father and a mother was challenging during my childhood.

My journey to pursue education was marked by struggles and hardships. When the time for my final high school exams arrived, I found myself in a difficult situation. I was the only student in the four classes who hadn’t registered for the exams. However, through a remarkable twist of fate, a seriously ill classmate learned about my predicament. She arranged for her brother to write a letter to the school bursar, requesting that her name be replaced with mine. This unexpected turn of events allowed me to take the exams and continue my educational path.

Later on, I pursued training in filmmaking at the Center for Education and Rehabilitation, which propelled me into the world of filmmaking. I honed my creative skills further by undertaking additional courses in the film industry. Currently, I am happily married and blessed with four children. Drawing from the difficulties I faced in my own life, I was determined to prevent other children from enduring similar circumstances. This motivation led me to establish the Neighbourhood Child Foundation, a non-governmental organization dedicated to the education, welfare, shelter, and security of underprivileged children. Through our efforts, we have successfully enrolled over 261 children in primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions.

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The Rising Sun focuses on an Igbo woman’s fight against the evil forces of slavery. How much of your experiences, culture, and even stories passed down to you as a Nigerian went into telling this story?

My Nigerian heritage and personal experiences have deeply influenced the story I wanted to tell in “The Rising Sun.” Through my dedicated study of history, I have delved into extensive research on African history, which has been enlightening but also emotionally challenging. It is crucial to acknowledge that the narrative of African history, as often presented by the West, deviates from the reality experienced by Africans themselves. With “The Rising Sun,” I aim to break new ground in African history by presenting the events of the slave trade era from the perspective of the victims.

The tragic fate of my great-grandfather at the hands of the British serves as a poignant reminder of the impact of cultural and linguistic differences. He was brutally killed because he couldn’t understand the pidgin English that the British had adopted as a lingua franca at the time. This event remains an indelible part of my family’s history, and I have made it a priority to pass down this knowledge to my children, who will, in turn, share it with future generations. Throughout history, our people have endured unimaginable suffering, including significant loss of lives during both world wars and the pursuit of colonialism.

When I made the decision for the victims to finally speak, I knew it would come at a personal cost and require substantial financial resources. That’s why I approached Improved Films, a film production studio based in America and owned by Dr. Jeff C Innocent, to form a partnership. After years of planning, we have reached this moment. “The Rising Sun” provides a window into the experiences of the Igbo People of Eastern Nigeria during the era of slavery, finally giving the world an opportunity to hear the voices of the victims.

What would you say to those who exclaim,  “Not another slave movie”?

In response to those who may exclaim, “Not another slave movie,” I would share the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an esteemed African writer of Igbo heritage. She highlights that silencing victims and preventing them from sharing their stories is an attempt to bury the truth. As long as we are alive, we will continue to speak out because, even in the modern era, human slavery persists, and the black race still fights for acceptance and recognition. Vengeance has never been my motivation, which is why it took me considerable time to decide to tell this story. I wanted to ensure that I was in control of my emotions and possessed the maturity to effectively convey the narrative in “The Rising Sun.”

As long as we are alive, we will continue to speak out because, even in the modern era, human slavery persists, and the black race still fights for acceptance and recognition.

On a personal level, I envision an International Day of Reconciliation, a day when the West can openly and sincerely apologize for the atrocities committed against Africa, our ancestors, and the entire continent. It is disheartening to witness the British, who possess one of the largest global reserves of gold, not owning a single gold mine. The wealth they possess is stained with the blood of Africans. Can they one day step forward and express genuine remorse for the evils perpetrated against our people? I sincerely hope that such a day will come while I am still alive, or at the very least, within the generation after us.

What do you want people to take away from watching the Rising Sun?

Recognizing the importance of history and ancestral heritage, it is crucial, particularly for the black community, to be aware of their roots. This awareness serves as a vital step towards reconciliation, as it unveils the struggles endured by our people, often overlooked by those who hold racist beliefs. By showcasing this film as a gateway into the experiences of the black community, my aim is to foster dialogue and potentially shift perspectives in the Western world, specifically among those unaware of our challenging path to liberation.

Thank you Bakia for taking the time to allow our audience to get to know you better and to learn more about your film. Everyone can check out the Rising Sun, premiering at the Greenwood Film Festival on August __ 2023. You can find tickets and more information at greenwoodfilmfestival.com

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