Prominent Gambian filmmaker, Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu, has provided entry skills for over 187 Gambian youths aspiring for careers in film and related cultural/creative industries. The youths who got exposed to the value chain of international standard film making were absorbed into the five major films that Prince Sankanu has single-handedly funded and produced in 2017.
Mr. Sankanu, a Germany-based Gambian film and media expert who hails from Sotuma Sere in Jimara district, Upper River Region, says he is responding to the call of President Adama Barrow for competent Diaspora Gambians with transferrable skills to return home and apply their expertise for the development of our motherland. Sankanu observes that The Gambia is lagging behind Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal and Nigeria in terms of film expertise principally because of the deliberate approach of the defeated Jammeh government that prioritized the wastage of Gambia’s meagre resources on parasitic foreign film stars while neglecting the countless home-grown and Diaspora talents who can perform better. “Outside actors and musicians were given monies in foreign currencies, plots of lands, flashy cars and diplomatic passports while we the pioneers of the local cultural sectors faced distain and have to rely on our own savings to make films,” Sankanu recalls.
The New Gambia has provided the new space of creative freedom for the New Gambian Cinema wave branded as CINEKAMBIYA by the founding father Prince Sankanu. Barely a month after the swearing-in of President Adama Barrow, Sankanu mobilized the team of his Gambia-registered premier production house called “Sanxaanu Kaggoro Film Kaffo (SANXAAFI)” to make the first film of New Gambia titled “PAIN OF SORROW” (2017) starring Habiba Barry, Bakary Sonko, Sheikh Tijan Sonko, Fatou S. Bojang and others. It was premiered at the Alliance Française de Banjul on 21 March 2017. The members of G-Empire Film Production are the first batch of 30 youths to benefit from the historic film of New Gambia in English language, written by Habiba Barry. SANXAAFI is the first Gambian film development organization to become official member of the Federation of Pan African Filmmakers (FEPACI) based in Nairobi, Kenya. FEPACI is the oldest and leading continental African collective bargaining group for the audio-visual professionals.
Five months later in July 2017, Prince Sankanu returns to the movie set to produce four additional Gambian films with various youth performing arts groups collectively known as „Team Sankanu, Pioneers of New Gambia Cinema, CINEKAMBIYA.” The first film of this new collective is “HISIRIN WALLE”, the first major Sarahulleh (Soninke) language film featuring Sankina Kanteh and members of the Gambia Soninkara Drama Group. Hisirin Walle, meaning ungratefulness is written by Muhammed Sissisho of Sissoho Production. It has guest stars from Sarahulleh music scene like Ebrima Sillah (Sillah Yigo) and Kaira Boy. Twenty youths have benefitted from the HISIRIN WALLE film.
Parallel to “Fisirin Walle”, Prince Sankanu leads the Bakary Sonko and the Gambia Brains (GMB) Theatre Group through the making of his masterpiece on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) titled “BLEEDING BLADE” with a cast and crew of 60 youths. The film is shot in Gambia College Brikama Campus, Joboro, Mandiana, Attaya Cafe and Tintinto. It is about the young Gambian girl Sira (played by Habiba Barry) and her sacrifice against FGM in her community. BLEEDING BLADE is Prince Sankanu’s contribution to the Gambian national discourse on FGM.
Lamin Darboe and his fellow youths of Chossan Film Association are the fourth beneficiaries of Prince Sankanu’s mentoring and empowerment programme through the Sankanu film “KUWO KU BAN LU NNE BALA” (no condition is permanent).” It is a Mandinka language film involving 53 youths and shot on locations in the Kombos and Baddibu.
To send another example of inter-Gambian solidarity and cooperation, Prince Sankanu has teamed up with another Gambian film director to make a fifth film with 24 youths in the cast. This brings the combined number of direct youth beneficiaries of his capacity building programme to 187 film enthusiasts.
Speaking to the media, Prince Sankanu says film making is not for financial dwarf and feels humble that “I can finance 5 major films from my personal funds without begging around for hand-outs. I am not expecting any quick return on investment as we are pioneering a film industry from scratch. My priority is to invest in the human capital of our cultural/creative industries and I am glad that over 187 youths would go out to serve as multipliers. Within the next 10 years, the Gambia will be an established filmmaking nation with our CINEKAMBIYA industry brand standing proudly alongside Hollywood (USA), Nollywood (Nigeria), Gollywood (Ghana) and Bollywood (India) brands.”
Sankanu sets the target of seeing at least 10 Gambian films are made during the course of 2017 as part of his new wave of Gambia filmmaking. “During the reception I organized on the Role of Filmmakers in New Gambia at the Rock Garden Apartments in Kerr Sering on 24th February 2017, I set myself a target of having 10 new Gambia films ready for the 3rd edition of our premier annual Cinekambiya International Film Festival (CIFF) between the 25th and 30th December 2017. I am humbled that apart from the five that I directly produced, others comrades of the New Gambia cinema have pushed the number above the benchmark of 10 features. The annual PAN AFRICAN SCREENS AWARD component of our film festival will take place on the 30th December 2017 to recognize excellence in filmmaking.”
On the marketing challenges of Gambian films, Prince Sankanu says “we don’t have the huge economies of scale like Nigeria and Ghana to flood the markets with movies but we have a unique Gambian culture that we can package for global consumption by creating the right niche market. Our CineKambiya Film Industry is here to stay.” He is “grateful to the Barrow Administration for including culture under which our audio-visual industry is categorized, into the National Development Plan. I am equally thankful to the Office of The Vice President for emphasising culture and Gambianization on the mission of the Gambia National Think Tank (GNTT).”
Sankanu calls on all those who care about reviving the Gambia’s economy or encouraging young empowerment to “partner with or support innovative pioneers like my humble self who are doing something tangible for our common good without waiting for hand-outs. We provide value for money and avoid wastage of resources.”
Sankanu holds, among other qualifications, a Master of Letters in Film Studies: Theory and Practice from the University of Stirling in Scotland, UK and a Diploma in Digital Film and Animation from the SAE Institute in Cologne, Germany.