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African Giants Premiers at CLE Int'l Film Fest

"African film maker brings needed discussion to the BIPOC table"

There is a jagged cultural divide carved from the traumatic onslaught of slavery that rifts between Africans and those of the African diaspora. When slaves were torn from their countries, their identities were torn too, and thus, Black Americans were born. But with this rebirth, sprouted the belittling of one culture to another on both sides of the African diaspora. This intraracial barrier resulted in insults carefully shared in secret conversations with those in like cultures. One film that exposes these racially slurred secrets is Omar S. Kamara's "African Giants."

Featured in the 2024 Cleveland International Film Festival, "African Giants" engages viewers in a riveting dance of identity, brotherhood, and heritage. Dialogue is creatively strewn into a weekend-long visit of two first-gen Sierra Leonean American brothers, which unfolds in a slow revealing of uncomfortable yet necessary topics. At the onset, a father's letdown from his son's dream to pursue an acting career is evidence that one generation's high standards and perspectives threaten to smother the next. But a burning tenacity launches older brother Alhaji into Hollywood, and his younger brother Sheku follows for a visit. The subsequent discussions of stereotypes on both sides of the coin of culture are launched into the viewer's face with little warning. But that is the no-nonsense style that makes the message effectively received.

The two brothers pontificate on the experiences of conflicting messages of faith (Muslim versus Christianity), appearing Black American while being African, dating outside their culture, and the constant struggle to fit in. All these topics were brilliantly and personally addressed by Creator and Director Kamara, who states in an authentic tone, "There was a time that I wouldn't even tell others I was African."

It's this vulnerability that shines through Kamara's work and has skyrocketed it to the top of the indie film circuit. 

Majoring in short films such as "Bitter Leaf," which premieres at Tribeca Film Festival this summer, Kamara's skillset has been heavily crafted by bootstrapping hard work and gut-wrenching ambition. After leaving a gig with Sprint, he applied to the American Film Institute in 2018 and didn't look back. Though there were severe moments of depression and doubt, his mentor's words rang in his ears.

"Only two out of 28 of you will have careers," Kamara's mentor told his class. It was that brutal honesty that motivated him to keep pushing forward. "I knew it was going to be hard," says Kamara, "and that helped me to expect it to be." 

The uphill battle paid off, as shown by Kamara's blooming success. He aims to continue telling stories that esteem African culture and demand respect commercially. The knack for incorporating real-world scenarios and dialogue into his films is the signature that sharpens his authentic voice. 

When asked, Kamara's advice to those coming behind is simple. "Make projects that scare you." That's exactly what Kamara has done with "African Giants," and the result is a rich brew of culture, identity, and brotherly love.

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