African Hub to fly in director for upcoming film series

The Residence Halls Association has funded the film’s airing and travel expenses for the director.

The MU African Interdisciplinary Studies Hub is set to host its first African film series next March. The series will include the first-ever feature film shot in the small African nation of Lesotho.

“The Forgotten Kingdom,” a 2014 film directed by Andrew Mudge, is one of the six films the Hub will show. The Residence Halls Association is funding the showing and covering travel costs for the director. During his two-day trip, Mudge will talk about his film at the event and possibly speak with students in the film department.

According to its website, the African Interdisciplinary Studies Hub promotes the “interdisciplinary, collaborative research and teaching that contributes to a better understanding of Africa at the University of Missouri.”

Hub Director Nadege Uwase said the program chose to air “The Forgotten Kingdom” because it had themes that students may be able to relate to.

“I think the way [Lesotho] was portrayed made people more interested in the country,” she said. “This particular film is talking about a young person who is coming home to bury his father, so there are a lot of themes as students and as a campus community that we can relate to.”

The film has won several recognitions, including three at the 2014 Africa Movies Academy Awards and over a dozen awards at different international film festivals.

“For non-African audiences it’s kind of a peek into a forgotten quarter of the world,” Mudge said. “People who see it really have responded well.”

Putting on the event

The Hub began the process of planning the event in spring 2016, when they first decided to host a film series. Uwase said she got the idea from True/False, a popular film festival in Columbia.

Uwase spent the summer vetting different suggestions for films, and said she chose ones that catered best to the program’s purpose. Each of the six films being aired is filmed in or about Africa.

“We wanted to make sure the films we selected encompass and give the Hub the opportunity to promote the study and understanding of Africa,” she said.

Ultimately, she narrowed it down to six films: two feature films, two documentaries and two film adaptations of books.

The Hub has reached out to several departments and organizations on campus for help funding the film series, including RHA, the Black Studies department and the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Uwase came to the RHA congress on Oct. 24 to ask for funding to air “The Forgotten Kingdom.” The representatives passed a $2,575 funding request to cover rights to the film, travel and lodging expenses for the director, room rental and advertising.

“We thought that we should give them everything they need to fulfill their vision for the project,” said Noah McCarty, chair of the Operations Committee, which initially passed the request.

He said sponsoring the event was in the interest of the residents because the event will give them a chance to learn more about African culture.

Most of the money RHA has approved for the film is allocated to bringing Mudge to campus for two days to speak at the airing of the show, as well as potentially with students in the film department.

Uwase said that having the director at the screening will be valuable for attendees.

“I think it is really enriching as a person who loves film to talk about that,” she said. “We wanted to have an opportunity for students, staff and faculty to interact with the person who made the film.”

About the film

Lesotho is a small nation embedded within the nation of South Africa. Mudge, who is from and currently lives in Boston, first visited about a decade ago while his brother was stationed there with the Peace Corps.

“It completely defied what my preconception of Africa was,” he said. “I think Americans have a very narrow-minded view of what Africa is, because it is a huge continent.”

He said after his visit, he was inspired by the landscape and culture and spent two years doing research about the nation for his film. He likened Lesotho’s mountainous landscape and horse-riding culture to the old west.

“There is something mystical about the country and the people and the land. It is like going back in time, and it is beautiful cinematically,” Mudge said.

The plot of the film itself is largely rooted in local culture, as well as the conditions he saw while he was there. For instance, the main character of the story is a young man who grew up in Lesotho and left to work in a large mine in Johannesburg, South Africa. While Mudge was in the nation visiting his brother, he learned that there were huge flights of men from small African nations who moved from their homes to Johannesburg for work.

The main character is pulled back home to Lesotho when his father dies, because in the nation’s culture, people need to be buried in the same land they were born on.

Mudge said the character goes on an Odyssey-like journey through Lesotho and undergoes a personal transformation over the course of the story. Though the movie was filmed in the nation and includes many elements of Lesotho’s culture, it holds many storylines that are familiar to American audiences.

“That is what films do, they tell our stories in different ways,” he said. “We feel empathy for characters when we don’t speak their language or we have never been to their land but we connect to them.”

Looking forward

Last year, the Hub hosted a showing of one film at Ragtag Cinema, and said about 90 people attended. Uwase said she hopes this year more people will be at each screening.

She said they have rented space in both Leadership and Wrench Auditoriums — two venues that can hold more than 100 people. She said that the number of people who come will largely be dependant on how well it is advertized, which is why they have a $450 advertising budget for the film that will include flyers, programs and radio ads.

If the event is popular, Uwase said the Hub may make the African film series an annual event.

Edited by Emily Gallion | egallion@themaneater.com

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