The TRUE AFRICA 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today.
Ama Ampadu is a film producer who has worked on films like Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan and Jim Kohlberg’s The Music Never Stopped. Ama is the co-founder of the Ethiopian production company Slum Kid Films, which produced the film Lamb. Directed by Yared Zeleke, the film, which is set in rural Ethiopia, was selected to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival; received rave reviews in the press; and is now a contender for an Oscar in the foreign language film category.
Why did you decide to focus on film?
Because I love storytelling. And I love images. I remember all the stories I was told as a child, and I started watching films at a very young age. I consumed so much of it that it came a point where I had to be part of the industry. Many films made an impact on me, but I have to say that I really like Ingmar Bergman. He’s probably my favorite director, even though his subject matters are quite dark, and sometimes very heavy. Bergman is one of the directors that inspired me, and that inspiration led to my choosing to get into film. I love how Bergman connected with human beings through his stories, how he was able to delve into the human psyche, and I realised that I wanted to work towards making films at that level.
Lamb is the first feature you produced. How did the project come about?
It came about when I went to New York to work on the Black Swan film. Yared Zeleke, the Ethiopian director of Lamb had a teacher named David Stein, who was a production designer on Black Swan. One day, Yared came on set to hand in a paper to David.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always been obsessed by Ethiopia.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always been obsessed by Ethiopia. I had moved to Paris from London when I was in my early twenties, and one of the places that I wanted to visit was Ethiopia. Anyway, when I spotted this Ethiopian man on set, I saw that he had a really cool style, and a very pleasant aura, so I went and spoke with him, and that chat led to us becoming friends in New York.
At the time he was studying at New York University, and he had this project called Lamb that he wanted to direct as a short film. I looked at the project, encouraged him, and told him to think about it as a longer film, because I felt that with him just coming out of school we could make it something really special. So we started working on the development of his script, and five years down the line we have a movie.
Who is your African of the year?
I really admire Lupita Nyong’o. We are in the same industry, but I also think she represents a new African woman. Not really new, actually. It’s what the African woman has always been, but now we are getting recognition, so I think for Lupita to champion that is fantastic. She has a black woman style, with her short hair, that I’ve been hoping, for a very long time, would be seen in the media.
I’m following her work, and I admire the choices she’s been making as an actress, from 12 Years a Slave, where we actually felt the pain of the character, to Star Wars, all the way to going back to theatre, with Eclipsed.
I hope that one day she will the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival, because, in 12 Years a Slave, she came across as very natural, very fresh, very elegant. She brought her elegance to that role, and it was also important for people to see that in a context like that one, she was a very elegant woman who had been pushed into a very dark situation. Her role was very effective, because it showed what can happen when one abuses that elegance.
Find out more about Lamb.
Follow Ama on Twitter at @amaampadu
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