Why I’m shooting a feature on Thomas Sankara — Fabian Lojede

Nigerian-born international actor, Fabian Lojede’s unforgettable role as Bola Abayomi in the now rested series ‘Jacob’s Cross’ made him a household name.

Fabian has worked extensively in South Africa since 2003 on creative development, execution, and production of major Pan-African campaigns. He has since produced his own feature films, including co-producing ‘Comatose’, a dramatic afro-futurism film which explores an African perspective on euthanasia.

Here, he tells PREMIUM TIMES more about his career and why he would be shooting a feature film on Burkina Faso’s Pan-African leader Thomas Sankara .

PT: You recently announced your intention to produce a feature on the Burkina Faso’s Pan-African leader Thomas Sankara. What informed the decision?

Fabian: Sankara is renowned as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution. Through his efforts, his country fought imperialism and corruption. He was seen as a man of the people who pushed for a united front of African nations. I recently visited his family house and his village and it was an amazing and humbling experience. It left me with hope that if we could produce one of him, we can produce more. The project on the iconic leader is part of my Pan-African creative network that will see collaborations from African creatives.

PT: What informed your passion to drive a Pan-African initiative and what is it all about?

Fabian: Well you cannot really love Fela and not be a Pan – Africanist, well I guess you can if you’re one of those people that just hears his music without listening. You can’t help but be Pan- African when you realize that as Africans we are still being pulled by political, cultural, economic, and religious strings of our former colonizers.

PT: How do you resolve issues like finance and other hitches in promoting this initiative?

Fabian: I wouldn’t really say it is an initiative that needs financial promotion, some people just need to re-educate themselves about their history. There are people in Nigeria that are helping to push that Pan- African narrative already, you have Kunle Afolayan, Tunde Kelani, musicians like Olamide, Phyno, whose lyrical choice of delivery is more local than most, even if you don’t agree with their messaging.

We have curators and cultural conservationists like Theo Lawson and Femi Odugbemi helping to keep the African documentary voices alive and grooming the next set of filmmakers’ right here on our soil. I think there is an unorganized movement here and in the diaspora reminiscent of the more organised Negritude movement in the 1930s.

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PT: Why pick a debatable topic like euthanasia for your latest movie ‘Comatose’?

Fabian: I like subject matter driven films and the subtext you can inject in them, this one has quite a bit of subtext driven into it beyond the topic of Euthanasia. When I read the play, which was written by a very good friend of mine, Jude Idada, based in Canada, I actually couldn’t put it down until I finished it. It was one of those stories, one of those scripts that you know, it was a real page-turner.

And was such a story that allows us to explore so many things that I personally find troubling within black and African societies. In a way, ‘Comatose’ as a film is not just dealing with the issue of euthanasia but from an African perspective, it’s also dealing with how, from a society point of view, there are so many things that in our society, actually in a state of comatose, whether it’s our culture, spirituality, politics, and the film in a way touch, thematically on some of these issues.

PT: Film distribution is a major challenge in the industry today, due to piracy. What new channels can filmmakers explore?

Fabian: No doubt online and VOD platforms are changing the game. I am old school though as I love the cinema experience.

PT: Is there really a single Africa story? If yes, what is it?

Fabian: There can never be a single story for Africa. The beauty of Africa is its diversity. The only single story that should exist is the authenticity of any story we tell.

PT: Do you think streaming platforms like Netflix is the future of films?

Fabian: For the independent filmmaker yes. Not sure about the future of film. There is something about sitting in a huge dark room, with surround sound and a huge screen that I think a sofa and a plasma screen can never replicate. But Netflix is a saviour for storytellers. The way the industry was structured before them would have killed new voices for sure.

PT: What can you say is the major intervention that has happened in the film industry lately?

Fabian: Improvement in Digital cameras, lowering of the cost of some post-production software’s and of course VOD platforms. From a content point of view, there is a new African and black awakening which I feel will drive narratives going forward.

PT: In an internet driven era, what do you think every filmmaker should be concerned about?

Fabian: Segmentation of audiences due to the ever-increasing number of platforms.

PT: Was the decision to study psychology borne out of passion or necessity?

Fabian: My father used to get a lot of Rosicrucian digest magazines when I was younger, and that’s when I discovered the world of Psychology. Though I must say I was scared that if I didn’t make it as a creative I could always do my Ph.D. in clinical psychology and become a shrink.

PT: What projects are you currently working on?

Fabian: I’m currently shooting a new international TV series in Cape Town and I also have a Pan-African music drama series called ‘Eko Vibes’ in the works. There is also a documentary ‘Omo Egun’ which is about tracing my family’s masquerade history and lineage in Abeokuta,” in the pipeline.

I’m also in post-production for my short film titled ‘Eje’ and I have a few productions coming out such as ‘Heavens Hell’ which opens May 10 in Nigeria. Other projects include ‘Ghost and the House of Truth’, a film directed by Akin Omotoso, produced by Ego Boyo, which will be released later this year; and the series I shot with Yomi Black ‘Jelli and Clitoris’.

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