No Direct Flight: The Dream That Refused Me. An Afrofuturist cipher reframing black cultures through poetry, movement and dance.
Jabu Nadia Newman is a South African photographer and filmmaker whose work is as diverse as her constantly shifting pool of inspirations. Through boldly colorful imagery, she explores alternative narratives with sensitivity and humor.
The Dream That Refused Me is split across four aesthetically distinct chapters that ties together myths, attitudes, and rituals from across Africa. Powerful and emotionally stirring, a Xhosa poem narrated by Siyabonga Jim creates draws a narrative line between the ancestral specters and incandescent landscapes created by collage artist Zas Ieluhee.
The story of Africa’s rich cultures and traditions is constantly being retold, remade, and reimagined. The Ethnicify App segment of Newman’s film, which is a satirical take on influencer culture, highlights how cultural nuances can become lost in translation among the diaspora. The question remains: If we, as a new generation of global Africans, are meant to embody the hopes and dreams of our forefathers, would they even recognise that us today?
The Dream That Refused Me does not aim to carry a singular message but to exist as a creative expression; a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, and prints that for those who have inherited the key through birth, culture or education can unlock the film’s abundance of coded connotations.
Read on for an interview with the director…
Can you describe some of the themes of your film?
The themes of this film are collaboration, translation, and interpretation. Through the internet, ideas are constantly being shared and representations of blackness are constantly evolving as well as being appropriated. I wanted to take something as ancient and intrinsically African as storytelling and create a modern and contemporary film exploring old ideas. By focusing on an orator who is performing a poem in Xhosa, we wanted to steer clear of a direct translation.
Guided by Siyabonga, everyone working on the film had their interpretation of the poem; every color, shot and makeup look is a representation of the poem. There are moments of magical realism, Afrofuturism, mysticism, and reality; so many worlds are present with an effortless flow through time and space.
Can you talk us through the decision to have an untranslated Xhosa poem as the project’s driving narrative force?
This came intuitively as I had worked with Siyabonga Jim before and we didn’t feel the need for translation. When the idea for this film came about we worked together to find moments in his poem called “Ubizo” that he could recite. That’s how Siyabonga expresses himself, through poetry, movement and dance.
You gave a lot of freedom to the visual artist that you collaborated with. How did their input alter your appreciation of the final project?
I think Zas Ieluhee adds so much to the film. It was fun figuring out how to bring their artwork to life. Every layer of collage had a story and connected to different scenes and dancers. Being Cameroonian, they incorporated ideas and traditions from their culture that were related to Siyabonga’s poem. Their collage and artwork brought characters to life in ways I had never imagined. This whole process truly inspired me and my future filmmaking.
In your utopia, what does the future of cinema look like?
The future of cinema is African filmmaking; using traditional forms of storytelling and going back to the simplest, truest form of filmmaking. It’s also a world where there’s more access, where film schools are more affordable, where equipment and mentorship (even film festivals) are more available and more stories are being told.
DIRECTOR : JABU NADIA NEWMAN @ROMANCEFILMS
MANAGING EDITOR : GAVIN HUMPHRIES @NOWNESS
VIDEO COMMISIONER : KATIE METCALFE @NOWNESS
THE BRITISH COUNCIL
POST : SIYABONGA JIM
COLLAGE ARTIST : ZAS IELUHEE
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY : DEON VAN ZYL
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER : ROZANNE ROCHA-GRAY
PRODUCER : DIDI EXELBY
PRODUCTION DESIGN : WENDY FREDRIKKSON
STYLING & COSTUME DESIGN : UNATHI MKONTO
EDIT : PAUL SPEIRS AND THABO NHLAPO
DANCERS : LOLWETHY SDUMO, MTHETHELI DLAKAVU, AMANDA GUMA, CHUMANDE NGQAKOTEY, YOLANDA NTANYANA
HELLO NICE : NATALIE PANENG
CGI MODEL : KIM ZULU
PROPS MASTER : GERALD ABRAHAM
ART ASSISTANT : EDDIE KWONGA
MAKE UP ARTIST : MARCHAY LINDEROTH
HAIR : KELVIN TAKUDZWA
WARDROBE ASSISTANT : SARAH HUGO HAMMAN
CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER : ELMAREE BOHM, KYLE HYDE, JOHNATHAN BAJU