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Kathryn Fasegha


Connecting The Continent And Its Diaspora

"Although we are outside the continent, we are still Africans." Our chat with Nigerian filmmaker Kathryn Fasegha

BY Agnes Amondi

May 18, 2023, 11:41 AM

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Kathryn Fasegha
Kathryn Fasegha is an award-winning Nigerian filmmaker and is behind the films, Treacherous Heart released in 2012 and 2 Weeks In Lagos. Both films underscore her pursuit to connect the African diaspora to the continent and the continent to those in the diaspora.

YAZA had an extensive conversation with Kathryn about the films, her mission and much more.

What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

I’ve always had a gift for writing and telling stories which is why I studied theatre arts and specialised in media and film production. 

You are passionate about developing African content and creating a bridge between Nollywood and African filmmakers in the diaspora. Why is that of interest to you?

We need to tell our stories. There’s a lot of immigration from Africa to the Western world and those of us who’ve made this journey have children who only know about the country they’ve been born into.

Some people are born and raised in an African setting but for a number of decades, they’ve had different influences which separate them from their peers who never left home.

The way they talk and their world perspective are different but it doesn’t change the fact that they are African. We need to be true to these stories because although we are outside the continent, we are still Africans.

These children need to understand and know their backgrounds, where their home is and where they come from. It is the only way they can have an identity and that’s why I am passionate about these kinds of stories. 

What made you leave Nigeria for Canada?

I grew up, schooled and had my children in Nigeria but we left for work. Over that period of time, things had changed so much back home that we decided to stay.

Your first film Treacherous Heart explores these dynamics, is this what inspired the story?
Image poster of Treacherous Heart
Definitely. I have seen many young talented people of colour who wanted to make films but there were no opportunities, even for those who are born here (Canada). 

They only got opportunities to work in background roles but I don’t blame the film producers because I cannot write stories for predominantly white people. 

When there is a proliferation of white producers, they tell white stories this is why it became necessary to have our own black filmmakers, people who tell our own stories because it is there that our children will find their own expression. 

At the time I made that film, there wasn’t anybody telling these stories on Canadian television and in cinemas and I believe that no one can tell our own stories better than us.

You’ve made 2 Weeks In Lagos’. Why two weeks and no two months or years?
Image Poster Of 2 Weeks In Lagos
It could have been anything but the idea was to tell a fast-paced romance story and highlight Lagos. I was deliberate because I knew that I wanted to take the film outside the continent so If someone was going to Lagos, and had only two weeks what should they do? Can they achieve everything? 

I was born in Lagos and I hear so many negative stories about it but it’s a vibrant city. It’s like no other in the world and I wanted to capture that and share it with the world. 

Also, I felt it was a catchy title.

Where did the story come from?

There are several things. Lagos is a city like no other. Once you get to Lagos, you cannot help but notice the energy. There are people on the streets trying to sell you all kinds of things when you are in traffic so I wanted to capture this. It demonstrates the can-do attitude of Nigerians. They get up and are constantly on the move even in the face of hardship.

I also wanted to capture our food which is rich and dynamic. If you are ever in Lagos, you have to visit the Bukas, otherwise, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Additionally, I read an article about Nigeria’s diaspora community and its contribution to the economy which led me to think about how Nigerians in the country can tap into the business world. 

Young Nigerians in the diaspora play a big role in the growth of business in the country. What if they came back and invested back home? I think this is more beneficial instead of pumping money from abroad.

Your film premiered at Cannes Film Festival. How did that come about?

It was my desire to do that; to create awareness of the film so we reached out to Pavillon Afriques because our visions were aligned. We did a lot of publicity in a year that didn’t have a lot of African films. It was a good way to show the world what we have and what we can do and that we are worthy of consideration.

The film received multiple recognition in Canada with Landmark. Why?

We got that deal with Landmark who was present during the premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was supposed to be released in 2020 but COVID-19 held us back so we never launched it with Landmark. 

By the time cinemas opened, we landed a deal with Netflix and released the film globally with them.

What’s your experience with Pavillon Afriques?

It’s difficult to quantify that because, by the time it came around, I had set things in motion so it's different. In 2022 when I went to Cannes, I went under the Canadian government so I didn’t participate fully with them.

That said, it’s a good platform for African filmmakers. In 2019, it gave me a landing place. Day-to-day, you have a place to have meetings with people and conduct your business with other filmmakers. Plus, it’s a great way of meeting African filmmakers who ordinarily, I wouldn’t have met.

Who inspires you and why?

When I started, there weren’t a lot of women who looked like me so there wasn’t anyone to look up to. I had to find that path for myself. That said, Tanya Williams is a big inspiration. She set up the Reelworld film festival which has grown to birth the Reelworld screen institute. 

What she’s doing is what I’ve always wanted to do; create opportunities for black filmmakers. Now, they are training young African people to become producers, directors, makeup crew, casting agents and managers. Despite all the success, she is humble and approachable.

How do you balance work and family?

It’s knowing what your priorities are. My faith and Family come first. Once I get that right puts me in a good place to succeed in my chosen career. When my children were young, I stepped back from the industry and focused on raising them. 

If you are in this industry, there’s no way you can successfully combine the two. Now they are young adults so I can focus on my work but the bottom line is that family comes first.

What are you most proud of in your filmmaking career?

I’m really proud of the fact that I have created opportunities for myself and reached where I am because there were no opportunities when I started. I describe myself as a pathfinder because I kept going and have come out on the other side with something. Now, I have received some recognition and getting support. 

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a new feature film 2 Weeks In Calgiary’, playing on the 2 Weeks name which I like. This is my love letter to the city where I raised my children and has given me so much that I’m giving back by telling the story of the city. 

Also, I am working on a tv series called NAICANA: My Nigerian Father, a half-hour comedy I have pitched to Canadian Networks, that’s currently in development.