Yes, as the very long title suggests, the incredible DBK studios have just launched their collection of new short films by emerging black filmmakers entitled ‘Unearthed Narratives’. In partnership with Sky Studios, the initiative seeks to support and nurture talent from Black and diverse backgrounds.
Usually when we hear of big corps pledging to support ‘diverse’ talent, the offering rarely ever extends beyond face-value announcements, with little agency and creative freedom given to those they claim to be helping. However, at the launch screening, Manpreet Dosanjh, the Commissioning Editor of Sky Studios spoke about the importance of giving each of the filmmakers complete creative ownership over their films.
In an exclusive interview with Koby Adom, Founder of DBK studios, we asked what was the driving force behind this project.
Coming up in the film industry I faced a lot of challenges and experienced a lot of things that I either loved or hated. I’ve always dreamed of having my own production company and so this was literally my response to all my challenges, in a way that others could benefit from. I’m the type of person that tries to do things for others that I would have wanted for myself. So, everything that I loved in my journey I kept, and to all my challenges, yeah, this was my response.
Coming from ends and going into the film industry, we’ve spoken a lot about the various ways in which people have either doubted or second-guessed you, how have you overcome that?
I know I come from ends, and I’m proud. To be honest, the decisions I’ve made as the CEO and director of DBK studios have come from the word of God. All the obstacles I’ve faced haven’t felt like obstacles because I feel like God has been with me every step of the way. With God all things are possible and that’s how I’ve been able to separate what the world expects of me vs what I believe of myself. Between me speaking to my lawyers saying I wanted to do this, and us being here now, it was all the holy spirit in between, and really that’s it.
Working at GUAP, I know the value of working with people from backgrounds similar to mine. What has been your experience of running your production company working with black and diverse talent?
The value of everything being black-owned, is that we’re telling our own stories. Many people from our communities haven’t had access to formal training, funding, or other opportunities to create films to an industry standard. Whereas, DBK has been able to take raw black talent and show them the ropes, holding them to international, high level, industry standards. All the directors had script supervisors, the writers all had script editors, and etc, which forced them to really refine their ideas but also pour their ‘black creativity’ into their work.
Finally, what has been your mentoring experience throughout this process? How has it felt to nurture and support each of these creatives?
It’s been so organic, each of these filmmakers are now my friends. With filmmaking, every human being involved in the process has to grow with their film and that was a big part of my process as a mentor – helping them to grow as people. It has to be deeper than filmmaking, it’s really a transcendent art form. There are so many layers to it and each filmmaker has to ‘die to their old self’ with every edit and every change, which is really such a powerful and transformative process. Being black adds another layer to it. As black people, we have a lot of imposter syndrome, especially the women, so that was a lot – the mentoring was a lot of emotional mentoring, as well as technical and logistical support.
As you watch the films, you can tell just how much love, dedication, and careful crafting has gone into their making. Each piece is incredibly unique in its creative identity yet they all share a common theme of authentic storytelling and clear delivery. Set across various historic, current, and futuristic time periods the films cover a wide range of themes including sickle cell anaemia; first-generation migration; black masculinity; social media culture; and life on the estate.
We’re absolutely spoilt for choice with this selection, almost like staring into a box of gourmet treats, instinctually wanting to eat them all at once, but respectfully and reverently take them each one by one. Each film is so rich and wholesome, centering on black stories that not only open you up to the sheer diversity of our lives but also narrate the beauty with which we carry and communicate our experiences. The films are all being screened this week on sky arts, so here’s a little introduction to each of them alongside their screening times.
Written and directed by Edem Wornoo, Butterfly Affect is a film that follows the journey of Iris, a young black ballet dancer from the ends must learn how to survive in two opposing worlds in order to spread his wings. Showing live on Sky Arts Monday 4th, 11pm.
Written and directed by Teniola Zara King, this film is set in the 1950s, and follows the life of Teju as she relocates to London from Lagos to study nursing but faces challenges when her colleagues demand to see her tail. Showing live on Sky Arts Tuesday 5th, 11pm.
Written and directed by Jessica Magaye, the film follows Sade, a young desperate carer who enters the Influencer Olympics after facing eviction – a game that allows players around the world a chance at a large cash prize and internet stardom. However, the game soon takes a dark and twisted turn. Showing live on Sky Arts Wednesday 6th, 11pm.
Written and acted by Nikki Fagbemi, and directed by Abdo Cisse. ‘Why Me?’ follows the story of Naima, a lackluster bookies assistant whose life is a Jenga set of problems waiting to fall. Watch to find out what tips her over the edge. Showing live on Sky Arts Thursday 7th, 10.45pm.
Written and Directed by Charlene Wango, based on a true story, this film follows the journey of Pastor Mimi, who after having a premonition tries to take matters into her own hands to save her son from a tragedy but soon realises it’s out of her control. Showing live on Sky Arts Friday 8th, 11pm.
Please don’t be surprised if you see several follow-up interviews, content and editorials with the DBK and each of these filmmakers. The films will be available to watch (and rewatch, and endlessly plug and binge) on Now TV and Sky Demand – enjoy!