Ekwa Msangi’s desire to be a filmmaker was born out of the frustrating lack of any films or characters who represented her in any way. Her parents hoped she might be a dancer, but she opted for a different art form, wanting to write stories that accurately depicted the Africa that she knew and loved, rather than wait for Hollywood to catch up.
After years of not gaining any traction with her peers and teachers about the films she was trying to make at NYU, a class in African cinema finally opened her eyes to the history of African filmmaking, citing Ousmane Sembène and Safi Faye as two stand out directors whose careers she could finally admire.
Ekwa’s first professional experience was showrunning her own TV series in East Africa, which was an unbelievable experience and a great exercise in how to work alongside experienced actors and crew. Her breakthrough project, Farewell Amor, about an Angolan man reuniting with his wife and daughter for the first time in 17 years, was a culmination of everything that she had learned working on short films, and it was such a thrill to see people rally around her project, which premiered at Sundance this year.
As an independent filmmaker used to doing everything on her own, Ekwa still has difficulty believing that she has been recognised as a BAFTA Breakthrough, although she finds it amazing that she is associated with the institution that has supported so many filmmakers whose work she respects and loves, such as Steve McQueen, Rungano Nyoni and Adeyemi Michael.