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BA (Hons) Film Practice grad secures Sundance Institute Ignite Fellowship 2018


Written by
Jake May
Published date
09 February 2018

BA (Hons) Film Practice graduate Ayo Akingbade has been selected for the Sundance Institute Ignite Fellowship 2018, securing a place at the festival and a year-long mentorship with the prestigious institute.

Filmmaker and artist Ayo, who was born and raised in Hackney, experiments with a range of media and combines analogue techniques with digital processes. Her graduate project ‘Tower XYZ‘, which she submitted to the fellowship competing with 800 other applicants, received a Special Mention Award at International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and was screened at BFI Southbank.

Ayo began making films as she failed to see ones which spoke to her lived experience. ‘Tower XYZ’ explores themes like gentrification and social cleansing through her own eyes. Through such work, Ayo has been able to express her voice and identity, and establish herself as a successful, young British Nigerian filmmaker.

We got in touch with Ayo to hear about securing the fellowship and her work…

Ayo Akingbade. Photo © Jerm Cohen

Hi Ayo, congratulations on the news of your fellowship! How did it feel when you found out?

When I first received the phone call that I got into the fellowship I was surprised and ecstatic.

How did the opportunity come about?

I submitted my film ​’Tower XYZ’ on the Project 1324 website and patiently waited but before that in the spring of 2017, my film was selected by BFI Future Film for a showcase linked with Sundance. Three other filmmakers and I presented our films to an audience and received feedback from renowned filmmakers which included Asif Kapadia and Jenn Nkiru.

What are you most looking forward to on your fellowship?

I really do enjoy going to film festivals so visiting Sundance Film Festival for the first time will be emotional. I am looking forward to meeting my assigned mentor and also getting to know the other filmmakers selected for the fellowship. Racking up knowledge on what it means to be a young independent filmmaker and how to navigate this industry will definitely be worthwhile.

What have been up to since graduating last year?

I have recently finished my new film ‘​Street 66’ about Brixtonite housing activist Dora Boatemah which I actually started as a school project for a documentary module we had in the last semester of Year Two. I am busy working on another project set in dystopian Hackney which will complete my trilogy on social housing in London.

What kind of work do you produce?

I want to share stories of historic collective memory, make art that speaks to the ambiguity of daily life and more. I would like to explore the black diaspora and their present experience.

Still taken from film by Ayo Akingbade

What is the inspiration behind your work?

My inspiration are stories that are usually buried, ones about underdogs. When I watched ‘​Black Tower’ by John Smith (one of my favourite short films) I knew my present exploration on social housing in London was so necessary. Artist Jean Michel Basquiat once said “it’s about 80% anger” which I agree with to a certain extent.

“LCC taught me that making films is my true calling and that you have be vigourous in your art and in life. Everything is concentric.” — Ayo Akingbade

To think there has only been 5 black female filmmakers to have directed a feature-length film that has received theatrical distribution in the United Kingdom is quite disheartening. It shows lots of work has got to be done and like ever before we need bold voices at the forefront.

Where will the fellowship be held?

There will be a launch summit at Sundance Film Festival which takes place in ​Park City, Utah and various other places in the United States over the year.

How do you think your time at LCC prepared you for such an opportunity?

LCC taught me that making films is my true calling and that you have be vigourous in your art and in life. Everything is concentric.

What advice would you give to other aspiring filmmakers studying at LCC?

Stop making sense and just do! The first step is just creating work you want to see. No questions, no buts.

Quick fire question round:

I’d love to direct a film with… Hito Steyerl​ in it

My dream collaboration would be… either Vero Tshanda Beya Mputu, Anthea Hamilton or Sade (the band).

One of the films that inspired me to become a filmmaker is… Alice in the Cities.

See more from Ayo on her Vimeo. See a screening of Ayo’s work at the Institute of Contemporary Arts on 21 February 2018.