Discop Africa Official Film Catalogue: Ukraine meets Nollywood. Feathered Dreams

“Feathered Dreams” is an unprecedented project in the film industry: the first joint-venture between Nigerian and Ukrainian filmmakers.

by Nicholas Bazanov

It’s fitting that the heroine at the heart of  “Feathered Dreams”, a new big-budget melodrama, is a stranger in a foreign land. The story concerns Sade, a young woman torn between her dream becoming a singer – a dream that was also her father’s dying wish – and the hopes of her mother, who sends the Nigerian girl to Ukraine to study medicine. Played by Omoni Oboli, one of Nigeria’s top-paid actresses, Sade’s conflict leads to a chain of dramatic events, culminating in a possible deportation. In other words she’s an alien. And in terms of global cinema, “Feathered Dreams” is just as much of an outsider.

Feathered Dreams Screen Shot

“As each continent hosts people who left their home country looking for a better life,” explain the producers, ”we are convinced that the story of our film is universal and that it will resonate with the viewer regardless of the geography or culture”.

The unprecedented feature-length film is the first-ever joint venture between Nigerian and Ukrainian filmmakers, a multicultural co-production that was born under the same kind serendipitous circumstances portrayed in the film. Planning began, when Igor Maron a Ukrainian entrepreneur, traveled to Abuja, Nigeria on business and was floored by the nostalgic stories of his Nigerian clients’ life as students in the Ukraine. In fall 2011, Maron met Andrew Rozhen, a well-known European music-video director who had heard similar stories of life in the Ukraine from a Nigerian friend. Maron and Rozhen shared these findings and the film sprouted wings.

For the producers, the meeting felt like fate. “It’s about the right people getting together at the right time, rather than anything else”, they say. “Or maybe this is what we call the zeitgeist”. Not everyone was onboard immediately, however. Although they have since expressed interest in future co-productions, African private investors at the time considered the project too unconventional. Furthermore no co-production treaties exist between the Ukraine and any African countries, so no state funds were available to “Feathered Dreams”. In the end, the entire budget was funded by Ukraine-sourced investors Highlight Pictures and the film was shot entirely in the Ukraine, even flashbacks to Sade’s Nigerian upbringing.

That’s not to say Nigeria was silent partner. The country’s analytical input at the development stage, and managerial support during the Ukrainian production were considered invaluable. That support was evident at the film’s premiere in May at the 66th Cannes International Film Festival.

“At the pre-production stage”, say the producers, “we had no doubts that the film would resonate with the Ukrainian audience”.

“However, we were not that sure about the African viewers. Our doubts vanished during the [premiere], as every single representative of the Nigerian national pavilion attended the screening”. The premiere was attended by buyers from the UK, Canada, South Africa and the U.S.

While filming on location at two Ukrainian national universities, the widespread interest many had in the unique co-production also became perfectly clear. In the Ukraine, a number of news reports were filed directly on-set and, according to Highlight Pictures, distribution offers from cable TV operators and video-on-demand platforms were already coming in. There is, however, still a ways to go when it comes to implementation of co-productions between these two countries in the future. Government-level agreements and regular communication between producers from both territories are still lacking, not to mention the constant need for public outreach campaigns aimed at both audiences.

“We agreed that the co-production between such different countries is an evident direction for the growth of independent filmmaking internationally. Different countries have pluses and minuses in efficiency. [But], we believe our Ukrainian-Nigerian film can inspire further collaboration between Eastern Europe, Africa and beyond”.

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