interviewBy Kebba Camara
Prince Babucarr Sankanu is a Gambian who is based in Germany. Sankanu has been living in Germany for the past 15 years and studied film making and intellectual property law. His main job in Germany however is film making and TV productions.
Sankanu said he has been in the country for over a month. He said he did correspondence work for a lot of international news agencies among them the BBC. He also mentioned that he was working with the GRTS.
In 1998 Sankanu left for Germany for what he calls facing new challenges in his life. In 2008 he officially started film making and TV production. He started this whilst going to school in Germany. His registered company in Germany is called Afro Media Film and TV International Group.
In this edition of art and music, he talks to Foroyaa generally about the film he would be working on in The Gambia.
Foroyaa: What kind of movie are you working on?
Sankanu: Well, the title is The woman in the Black Jacket. It is a social commentary on the menace of rape. You can bear witness with me that rape is becoming rampant in our societies and it is not a subject that should be buried under the carpet. So to promote attitudinal change we have to use the media in form of films to discourage people from doing certain things. It is basically a non commercial art film project. The rape issue is global and the movie can sell all over the world. I decided to shoot the movie in the Gambia because I feel that some foreigners are coming here to exploit the country's potentials.
So the actual story line explains the life of Jojo, a young undergraduate who was raped by a gang of school boys. She forgave them initially but they decided to scandalize it with the modem technology to gossip about it and made her look cheap. The drama and the shame forced her to drop out of school. Years later she decided to revenge while the entire rapists were successful in their carriers. They were all responsible people and she decided to revenge on all of them. It is a long story and only if you watch the movie can you get the clue. The movie will all be Gambianized.
The names are Gambians, the scenes are Gambian, the location, etc. I just want to show the people the reality.
Foroyaa: Will the movie be only marketed in the Gambia or international as well?
Sankanu: My target is international; I want to use it because the content is international. But I want to use it to market the Gambia globally and to help shed global light in the Gambian movie industry. If you want to catch the attention of the world you have to give the world something that the world can bite. So such a movie which is touching to millions of people is the best way of telling the people there is a country called the Gambia. So there will be an international distribution from Germany. My company there will handle the international distribution.
Foroyaa: Are you working with other Gambian movie producers, or you are strictly working alone?
Sankanu: Before coming I wrote to the ministry to tourism and culture and I submitted the script of the movie to them. I also wrote to the office of the president that I am coming here to work with Gambians.
When I came I met the permanent secretary ministry of tourism and Culture and I invited all the talents in the country for audition.
I informed them about the project and I gave them audition forms to complete.
I selected a young Gambian called Muhamed Lamin Touray who will be the director of the film. He will handle all the production and I will give him the freedom to be creative and make his own decisions. I will serve as the executive producer and the lead male actor. So far I met few people and am impressing with them and I think I can work with them. This project is not for me alone but for Gambians in General.
Foroyaa: What are the cost implications if you shoot the movie in the Gambia compared to when you want to shoot it in Germany?
Sankanu: First of all, the cost of labour in Germany is high but one can always apply for government funding. At the moment I peg the budget to 51,000 Euros, which is around 2 million or so dalasi. This is my first project and I don't want to overdo things. I want to learn and study the country and if all goes well next time I will increase the budget.
Foroyaa: How can you convince me that you will not make use of our young talents and go away?
Sankanu: I work according to international standards. This issue was raised in lot of places ever since I came to Gambia. People come here and exploit young talents, I know about that. But I'm different and only my name is visible. So where do I run to? I cannot be condemning Nigerians and others and I also come and do the same thing. I work according to standards, because in Germany we signed contracts. I will do the same thing here and the contracts I signed will be guided by Gambian law. Before the camera or behind the camera, no one will come without having contract with us. Your contract will determine your pay and it will be Gambian standard. You have no right to tell us we have to pay you by the American standard or European standard. That's why we put the budget at this level after calculating everything in Germany.
Foroyaa: What about Quality, will it be as standard as international ones?
Sankanu: Well, just as I told you, I gave the young man Muhamed Lamin Touray to prove himself. According to him he said the equipment is here and before leaving for Germany he will tell me the few equipment he will need from Germany. I have a stand by crew in Germany as well, I don't just want to bring them in yet without knowing what we lack in Gambia.
Foroyaa: What are your challenges at the moment regarding the movie?
Sankanu: My main constraints are the slow decision making. I submitted all the documents the Government needs from me since last year. I did a lot for Germany. I acted in movies and TV series, I organised film festivals and I travelled all over the world. But things are slow in the Gambia. Apart from the first assurances I'm yet to see anything concrete. Of course I'm not surprised because I was expecting that things will be slow here. I have however suspended a lot of activities to be here and I hope by the time I leave for Germany I will leave with something concrete. So that when I come in January I will be motivated.
This trip will definitely determine the fate of the project. This will tell whether it makes sense to waste time and energy for my country or not.
This trip will determine if I will stay in Germany for ever. As we are speaking right now I have already missed very important events or mine that should take place in Germany
Foroyaa: So you are satisfied with the characters you have seen in the Gambia so far?
Sankanu: Yes it was an informal session. But we talked and we now know each other a bit because I cannot sit in Germany and talk to them here. I have to present myself to them and convince them that I'm not here to use them but to work with them.
Well I'm impressed with their dedication. But I will be able to make final judgment about the characters when we finish rehearsals.
Foroyaa: What are the criteria you look for in a good actor or actress?
Sankanu: Am an art house film maker and as such commercial in secondary. We look at the message and the characterization. I like walking in thee street and look at some one and say yes you can fit in role so and so. You may not even be a professional actor but if we coach you it can come. But generally I look at the person and know the hidden talents in the artist, then I can know what role you can fit.
Foroyaa: What do you intend to achieve form the movie?
Sankanu: My intention is to start something permanent in the country. I got a land to build a film school, I have a proposal for a film festival and every ting is with the Government. This movie is to raise education in the menace of rape so as to boost attitudinal change and help the victims.
I also want to market The Gambia and we are lucky we have an established tourist industry and marketing our film making potentials will be easy. This can sell the Gambia. I will make experience in making movies in the Gambia and will register my production company. I will want to build film schools and make Gambia my second base of operation.
Foroyaa: What advice will you give to young Gambians who want to take acting as a career?
Sankanu: The only thing I can tell them is to be sincere and genuine. Many people have talents but because of the culture the family will suppress it. If your child has a talent he should be supported on it. Football was considered as a waste of time but today footballers are earning millions. At the moment they will also be criticising acting but with time they will know it is not a waste of time. The young people please be passionate and be serious with whatever you are doing.
Foroyaa: Finally how can Gambians get to you?
Sankanu: Well right now I am using a Gambian number and it is 6774620. I am on Facebook as Prince Bubacarr Sankanu. You can also contact Arts and Culture if you want to get to me.