London, United Kingdom. 2014.
“We drove around until we found the house. Then we went to the owner and said we want to make a film. She looked at us and went: ‘Is it a porno?'” – Lisa Harewood
Commonwealth Shorts is a capacity building scheme that gives emerging writer-directors the opportunity to make a short film which highlights issues affecting their communities. From migration and barrel children to the re-discovery of First Nations traditional childbirth teachings, each film tells a local story, and can be viewed here.
The five Commonwealth Shorts filmmakers – Lisa Harewood, Jules Koostachin, Oscar Kightley, Kareem Mortimer and Wanjiru Kairu – share their experiences of the process with broadcaster Rosie Goldmith and ask if there’s such a thing as a common story.
Lisa Harewood is a passionate film fan from the island of Barbados. After a working life spent mostly in the fields of advertising, marketing and development communication, she decided to pursue her long-held ambition of making a film, joining writer/director Russell Watson’s micro-budget feature project, A Hand Full of Dirt (2010), as Producer. AUNTIE is Lisa’s debut as a writer and director. The film explores her interest in the effect of migration on those who leave their home countries and those who are left behind.
Wanjiru Kairu is a Kenyan filmmaker interested in creating films that promote dialogue on social issues. An alumnus of the Berlinale Talent Campus in 2006 and the Maisha Film Lab 2007, Wanjiru’s short films have been official selections at festivals such as the Pan African Film Festival, Durban International Film Festival, ION Film Festival and the New York African Film Festival. Wanjiru currently writes and directs for different TV drama series and is also adapting Martin Njaga’s short novel, The Brethren of Ng’ondu into a feature.
Oscar Kightley is a Samoan born writer/actor and broadcaster who grew up in New Zealand. In the 1990s he helped found Pacific Underground, a theatre company that was integral in developing Pasifika themed stories. He formed the Naked Samoans theatre group that was the genesis for animated prime time comedy series First bro’Town and the hit movie Sione’s Wedding, which broke domestic box office records upon its 2006 release. In 2009 Oscar was made a New Zealand Arts Foundation Arts Laureate in recognition of services to New Zealand theatre and television.
Jules Koostachin was raised by her Cree speaking grandparents in Moosonee, as well as her mother in Ottawa. She is known for her social activism work in Indigenous rights and education, combining social issues with her artistic ventures. She is from Attawapiskat First Nation, currently living in Toronto. Soon after graduation, Jules was one of six women selected for the Women in the Director’s Chair programme at the Banff Centre. Her film script Broken Angel, won Best Fresh Voice at the Female Eye Film Festival.
Kareem Mortimer is a Bahamian filmmaker from the island of Nassau in the Bahamas. Before taking part in Shorts, he made short music documentaries for the syndicated show Hip Hop Nation and wrote and directed the short film Float that won five festival awards. He also directed the documentary I Am Not A Dummy and his debut feature film Children Of God, which won 18 awards. Children of God was also named by BET as one of the top ten movies of the year and one of the top features to watch by The Independent Magazine.
Rosie Goldsmith is an award-winning journalist specialising in arts and current affairs. During her 20 years at the BBC, she travelled the world, covering events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of apartheid in South Africa, presenting flagship BBC programmes Front Row and Crossing Continents. She combines broadcasting and journalism with presenting and curating events in Britain and overseas. In the UK, Rosie is known as a champion of international literature and language-learning and promotes them whenever she can.