“The conflict that goes on in ones mind when you mix cultures, belief systems, race, class, etc., is quite scary.”
Per Sela Films, Asa (which means “a beautiful girl”) is a short film based on a true story. It’s a dramatic tale of the last 24 hours before a young girl embarks on her journey to America. It takes place in two cities (Lagos and Benin) in Nigeria, West Africa.
The film chronicles Asa’s life from age 7 to age 17, when she meets her biological mom and leaves for the United States. Within these last 24 hours, shrunken into12 minutes, we see what Asa’s life has been like over the past 10 years, and gain an understanding for why she absolutely has to get out.
The film opens with a kidnapping plot to get Asa out of the country, and through a series of flashbacks, tells the tale of what she has had to endure from the moment she was placed on a plane with a stewardess to be dropped off at a foster home in Nigeria, to the pivotal moment of confrontation with her biological dad – she was going to leave, at any cost, and by any means necessary.
What’s most incredible about Asa’s story is that it could be anyone’s story, regardless of race, class, religious beliefs or culture. It deals with those things that are kept in the dark and ought to be brought to light. In spite of its darkness, this is very much a dynamic tale of triumph, love and hope. It’s both colorful (yes, the costumes are amazing too!) and soulful.
As I read Aimi’s interview answers below and, in particular, her quote, “The conflict that goes on in ones mind when you mix cultures, belief systems, race, class, etc., is quite scary,” I was struggling once again with my own mother. She chose to cut me out of her life, again, this week. This time, I’m determined to let her go. Her decision was ultimately based on the religious, political and cultural differences that now seem to divide us. I don’t think a mother should walk away from her small or adult children for such reasons, yet I understand their power.
I’ve always hoped the love between my mother and I would overcome any differences we have. As an adult, I shouldn’t need that so desperately anymore, but it’s hard not to want it when I’ve waited for so long. Now I’m trying to face facts. And like the brainwashed, I still struggle internally every day about whether or not I am doing the right thing. Even when my heart and mind tell me I am, I still have an emotional ache to be at peace with all the notions that were pounded into my head as a child.
I question how adults can be blind to the needs of children, and how, although childhood is such a short span of time, how powerful an impact those years have.
Today I don’t care what your culture is, or where you stand politically or religiously. I hope you stand for love. My suspension is that the story of Asa somehow relays this as well, and I’m so looking forward to that discovery. I’ve donated towards Aimi’s production costs,and hope you will consider doing so as well.
Information on how to support the film can be found here.
What’s your story ? How did you become interested in film?
My story, wow, where do I begin? I can answer how I became interested in film making, so I think I’ll do that. The short version is that a theatrical director friend of mine, Michel Chahade, sat with me and basically said, “It’s time we made your story into a film,” and I said. “Let’s do it.” He’s not the first to suggest making my story into something – a novel, an autobiography; my dad suggested a documentary and actually started the process by trying to get a few creative people he knows interested. I love my dad. I’m adopted by an amazing father as you know from watching the kickstarter video. I say he saved my life and he says I saved his! Funny isn’t it.
Can you tell us about your current project, Asa?
Asa is a short film that’s based on a true story. It’s a story about a young girl growing up in Nigeria and moving to the States at age 17. The story is being told in two parts. The first is the Short film that’s currently in production and the second part will be a full length Feature. We had originally started work on the project with the working title “Journey” and later settled on “Asa” because this story is about her journey from childhood to adulthood. You may also say it’s her journey from the darkness in her life into light. The film has many dark moments, but throughout the abuse, struggle, depression, humiliation, Asa stays very human.
With regard to your current focus, was there an “ah-ha” moment you can tell us about?
Yup! The moment I realized that I really wanted to be behind the camera. There’s this small role in the film, Asa’s cousin interacting with her the morning she’s leaving for the States. The director, Chahade, decided to have me play her and I really did not want to do it. When I realized I was in shock and thought “Oh my, I’m in trouble!”
Many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Which of your dreams have come to pass and what do you dream about now?
I’ve just started living my life. I feel I dream dreams everyday that come true. I know, this probably doesn’t make sense. I dream of having a constant roof over my head and I do. I dream of being able to pull out a few bills and get a meal whenever and wherever I choose to and I do. I dreamed of being able to read, write, comprehend things and I do all that. I dream about being safe (mostly take it for granted I think, considering the situations I’ve put myself in at times) but I am safe. I dream about staying warm, clothed, and I am. I think maybe one would have to be able to understand how walking into a Payless shoe store at 145th and Broadway, for the first time (this was late 90s) being able to put down $50 for a pair of shoes, for the first time, and walking out of that store on cloud nine, could be a memory you’ll never forget, to get what I’m talking about. I dream of making friends too, cause I fear I am terrible at that, and little by little I’m making friends.
Do you believe some of the various attributes related to your creative interests have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life’s aberrations, or both? How so?
This is a complex one. My entire life is a deviation from the norm. I’m Nigerian by decent. Born in the US, shipped to Nigeria. Raised by foster parents and legal guardians and then by my biological remarried dad, in Nigeria, and then by my biological mom very briefly in the States. Getting adopted by a Jewish (Israeli & American citizen) single dad. Studying Engineering and Literature simultaneously, deciding to pursue modeling and acting afterward, and then turning around to become a writer and filmmaker, all the while refusing to fit into any one category in any area of my life.
Have you ever had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality, interests, or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you’ve dealt with it?
My Jewish papa also wanted an Engineer to work with him and take over his company. He actually mentored me in that direction, and it was very tough for him to accept me making the switch over to the arts fully, but when he came out to my first dramatic play, he said something to the effect of me having some talent. Then he came out to a second show and was blown away. I think he hated the third one or was it the fourth one, but after that, he was sold! He’s my biggest fan and though occasionally he, you know, brings up the Engineering, he’s very much supportive of me and is 100% behind me making this film.
Have you developed a specific creative process that enables you to meet your goals? If so, can you tell us about it, and also share any thoughts you may have on the role of discipline and organization?
Ha!!! Nope. No methods unfortunately. I am very emotional I believe, so intuition, a sense of timing, that sort of thing mostly guides me. I’ve had to learn some serious lessons as a result of how I attack my goals at times, so I don’t feel I can recommend my brand of tactic to anyone.
In such a highly competitive world, what do you think it takes to rise above the crowd in your particular creative industry, and has this changed over the years?
That’s a big one (I say that a lot, don’t I?) I think it takes being in the right place at the right time, fully prepared. I don’t believe this has changed at all really. What I do see is that it’s easier now for people to make films. There are many outlets for getting one’s work out there which is both a blessing and a curse. Funding is tight and the whole structure of the past in the film industry has completely shifted. Everything seems to be blending or moving laterally. People are having to wear a thousand hats at one time, and it’s become the norm. To stand out, you need, contrary to what seems to be the norm these days, Snookie, et.al., solid work, great marketing, drive, and an understanding of what’s out there versus what you are presenting.
What’s next for you?
Very next step, finishing “Asa” the short, submitting it to festivals, and jumping into the process for making the feature.
What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?
Put one foot in front of the other and breathe. It helps me stay focused, and in a very funny way, helps me stay grateful. I think it’s because I suddenly realize after a few steps that I’m walking and breathing, and that’s pretty cool