Akosua Adoma Owusu
Akosua Adoma Owusu
|Born||January 1, 1984|
|Alma mater||University of Virginia and California Institute of the Arts|
|Kwaku Ananse (film), Me Broni Ba (2009) and Drexciya (film) (2011)|
Akosua Adoma Owusu (born January 1, 1984) is a Ghanaian-American filmmaker and producer whose films have screened worldwide in prestigious film festivals, museums, galleries, universities and microcinemas since 2005. Her films explore the colliding identities of black immigrants in America through multiple forms ranging from cinematic essays to experimental narratives to reconstructed Black popular media. Interpreting the notion of "double consciousness," coined by sociologist and civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois, Owusu aims to create a third cinematic space or consciousness. In her work, feminism, queerness, and African identities interact in African, white American, and black American cultural spaces.
Early life and education
Owusu was born to Ghanaian parents and raised in an immigrant community in Alexandria, Virginia. She is the youngest of three siblings to Grace and Albert A. Owusu, Sr. Owusu holds master's degrees in the School of Film/Video and School of Fine Art from California Institute of the Arts, which she earned in 2008. She graduated with a Bachelors interdisciplinary degree in Media Studies and Studio Art with distinction from the University of Virginia in 2005. Owusu began her career as a post-production assistant on Chris Rock’s HBO documentary “Good Hair” (2009). Soon thereafter, she transitioned to making her own short, experimental films.
Shortly after graduating from CalArts in 2008, Owusu was a featured artist of the 56th Robert Flaherty Film Seminar programmed by renowned critic and film curator Dennis Lim. Named by Indiewire as one of the six Avant-Garde Female Filmmakers Who Redefined Cinema, and one of The Huffington Post‘s Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know, Owusu was a 2013 MacDowell Colony Fellow and a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow.
Indiewire describes Owusu's shape-shifting film style:
Trafficking in the “complex contradictions” of blackness, displacement and memory, Owusu seamlessly transitions between experimental cinema, fine art and African tradition in order to create avant-garde films that question the nature of identity.
Her “warring consciousness” as she describes it, becomes the point of departure for her film Me broni ba (my white baby). Using hair as a medium of culture, she examines African and African-American identities and ideologies in an effort to resolve their differences. Ed Halter, one of the founders of Light Industry in Brooklyn listed Me Broni Ba as one of 2010's top ten films in Artforum magazine.
She has produced award-winning films including Reluctantly Queer (2016) and Kwaku Ananse. In 2013, Kwaku Ananse received a Golden Bear nomination at the Berlinale and won the 2013 Africa Movie Academy Award for the West African nation of Ghana in the Best Short Film category. The film, which starred Ghanaian artist Jojo Abot, was supported by Focus Features' Africa First, and had its North American debut at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Kwaku Ananse was also included in the 2013 Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma - César Golden Nights, a program organized with support from UNESCO that selects notable short films.
Reluctantly Queer (2016) produced in collaboration with Dr. Kwame Edwin Otu, an Assistant Professor of African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia was nominated for the Golden Bear and Teddy Award at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival. It had its North American premiere as part of the New Directors/New Films Festival.
In 2017, Owusu  wrote and directed "On Monday of Last Week", a film adaptation of a short story of the same name from celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's short story collection, "The Thing Around Your Neck." The film which featured American actress Karyn Parsons best known for her role as Hilary Banks on the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, secured a nomination at the 2017 African Movie Academy Awards. The film went on to screen at the Fowler Museum, ICA London  and the 25th New York African Film Festival co-presented by Film at Lincoln Center.
Owusu said in a 2015 interview with South Africa's Elle (magazine), Owusu said "I began filming in Ghana as a way to find a place in my Ghanaian heritage. I often refer to myself as a Ghanaian-American, but I do consider myself to be an American filmmaker of Ghanaian descent. When I am in America, I feel very Ghanaian and when I’m in Ghana, I feel more American. I started traveling to Ghana with my friends from America to help me with the trauma of dealing with blackness both in Africa and in the African diaspora. My love for Africa was informed by romantic ideas about the continent as a home awaiting my arrival. Filming in Ghana, forms part of this journey."
In 2011, Owusu exhibited work in Cusp: Works on Film & Video by Kevin Jerome Everson & Akosua Adoma Owusu at the Luggage Store Gallery. Called the “intimate and the ideal realization of the vision of a valuable genius", this show included Revealing Roots, a silent re-enactment of one of the most dramatic scenes from Alex Haley's Roots (1977 miniseries) combining found footage and scenes that star Owusu and other African actors.
She is represented by Farber Law LLC.
Her films are produced under her production company Obibini Pictures LLC.
In 2013, Owusu launched a global Kickstarter initiative to ‘Save the Rex’! The Rex Cinema is one of Ghana's oldest cinema houses. During a time of political insecurity in Ghana in the 60s, 70s and 80s, there was a decline in the Arts. All of the cinema houses closed down in the wake of military coups and curfews. Owusu sought to save Rex Cinema for the purpose of preserving cinema houses. In 2016, Owusu developed a screenplay based on her global campaign to Save the Rex Cinema in Ghana at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France. In 2017, The Guardian announced that Owusu was working on a part-real life, part-fictionalized feature film about her campaign to restore the historic Rex cinema.
Owusu participated as a distinguished juror at the 57th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival and presented a special program dedicated to her body of work.
In 2019, she led a workshop for filmmakers, critics and researchers on Triple Consciousness at Cinema Camp an annual four-day long summer event organized by Meno Avilys Film Center based in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Owusu's film White Afro received the Premio Medien Patent Verwaltung AG prize in Pardi di domani (Leopards of Tomorrow) section of the 2019 Locarno Festival in Switzerland. The film was subtitled in three central European languages.
Owusu's film Pelourinho: They Don't Really Care About Us was one of critics’ best films of 2019 in Sight & Sound magazine published by the British Film Institute (BFI)
- 2020: Akosua Adoma Owusu: Welcome to the Jungle at the Museum of Modern Art Documentary Fortnight 
- 2019: Akosua Adoma Owusu: Welcome to the Jungle at Contemporary Arts Center (New Orleans)
- 2019: Akosua Adoma Owusu: Welcome to the Jungle at Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
- 2019: Between Three Worlds: Films by Akosua Adoma Owusu at REDCAT
- 2019: Triple Consciousness: Films by Akosua Adoma Owusu at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
- 2019: Sala de Video: Akosua Adoma Owusu at the São Paulo Museum of Art
- 2019: Triple Consciousness: Films by Akosua Adoma Owusu at the Institute for Contemporary Art, Richmond
- 2019: Screening: Akosua Adoma Owusu at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
- 2018: Triple Consciousness at BOZAR, Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels;
- 2018: African Twilight at the Bowers Museum;
- 2018: Fragments of a Dream at the McNay Art Museum;
- 2018: Screening and Conversation with Director Akosua Adoma Owusu at the Fowler Museum at UCLA;
- 2017: Akosua Adoma Owusu and Bus Nut at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center;
- 2016: Making Africa: Akosua Adoma Owusu at Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona
- 2016: Films by Akosua Adoma Owusu at Tabakalera
- 2016: Encuentro con Akosua Adoma Owusu at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León
- 2016: L'évènement Akosua Adoma Owusu at the Centre Georges Pompidou
- 2016: Triple Consciousness at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
- 2016: Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 at the Whitney Museum of American Art
- 2015: Modern Mondays: An Evening with Akosua Adoma Owusu at the Museum of Modern Art
- 2015: Existential Crisis at the Rochester Art Center
- 2015: America Is Hard to See at the Whitney Museum of American Art
- 2015: The Art of Hair in Africa at the Fowler Museum at UCLA
- 2015: Two Films by Akosua Adoma Owusu at Art and Practice  in association with the Hammer Museum
- 2015: Do/Tell at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
- 2014: Prospect.3: Notes for Now New Orleans Triennial
- 2013: Films by Akosua Adoma Owusu at the Moderna Museet
- 2012: Fore at the Studio Museum in Harlem
- 2012: The Bearden Project at the Studio Museum in Harlem
- 2011: VideoStudio: Changing Same at the Studio Museum in Harlem
- 2011: Quadruple Consciousness at the Vox Populi (art gallery)
- 2009: 30 Seconds Off an Inch at the Studio Museum in Harlem
- 2009: Me Broni Ba at the Museum of Modern Art Documentary Fortnight 
Awards and nominations
|2005||Virginia Film Festival||Ajube Kete||Ken Jacobs Award for Best Experimental Short Film||Won|
|2008||Berlin International Film Festival||Me Broni Ba/My White Baby||Berlinale Talent Campus||Won|
|2008||California Institute of the Arts||Good Hair||Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Grant||Won|
|2008||Detroit Docs||Intermittent Delight||Most Progressive Filmmaker Award||Won|
|2008||Mexico International Film Festival||Me Broni Ba/My White Baby||Silver Palm Award||Won|
|2009||Athens International Film and Video Festival||Me Broni Ba/My White Baby||Best Documentary Short||Won|
|2009||Chicago Underground Film Festival||Me Broni Ba/My White Baby||Best Documentary Short||Won|
|2010||Robert J. Flaherty Film Seminar||Work||Featured Artist||Won|
|2010||Real Life Documentary Festival||Me Broni Ba/My White Baby||Special Jury Mention, Best Short Film||Won|
|2011||Black Maria Film Festival||Drexciya||Jury's Citation Prize||Won|
|2011||African Film Festival, Tarifa||Drexciya||Special Jury Mention||Won|
|2011||Expresión en Corto International Film Festival||Drexciya||Best Experimental Short||Won|
|2012||Focus Features Africa First||Kwaku Ananse||Production Grant||Won|
|2012||Creative Capital Foundation||Black Sunshine||Film/Video Grant||Won|
|2012||Art Matters Foundation||Kwaku Ananse||Post-Production Grant||Won|
|2013||Ann Arbor Film Festival||Split Ends, I Feel Wonderful||Most Promising Filmmaker Prize||Won|
|2013||Berlin International Film Festival||Kwaku Ananse||Golden Bear Best Short Film||Nominated|
|2013||Africa Movie Academy Award||Kwaku Ananse||Best Short Film||Won|
|2013||Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma||Kwaku Ananse||Best Short Film of the Year||Won|
|2013||Arte International Prize||Black Sunshine||Development Grant||Won|
|2013||MacDowell Colony Fellowship||Black Sunshine||Screenwriting Grant||Won|
|2014||Berlin International Film Festival||Black Sunshine||Production Grant||Won|
|2015||Association Cinémas et Cultures d'Afrique||Kwaku Ananse||Special Jury Mention||Won|
|2015||John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation||Black Sunshine||Guggenheim Fellowship||Won|
|2015||Tribeca Film Institute||Black Sunshine||Tribeca All Access Development Grant||Won|
|2016||Berlin International Film Festival||Reluctantly Queer||Golden Bear for Best Short Film||Nominated|
|2016||Berlin International Film Festival||Reluctantly Queer||Teddy Award for Best Short Film||Nominated|
|2016||Baltimore International Black Film Festival||Reluctantly Queer||Audience Award for Best International Short Film||Won|
|2016||The Camargo Foundation||Save the Rex||Travel Grant||Won|
|2017||Africa Movie Academy Award||On Monday of Last Week||Best Short Film||Nominated|
|2018||Pratt Institute||On Monday of Last Week||Mellon Research Grant||Won|
|2018||International Short Film Festival Oberhausen||Oberhausen Film Seminar||Featured Artist||Won|
|2018||Goethe-Institut Vila Sul Salvador-Bahia||Black Sunshine||Artist-in-Residence||Won|
|2018||Cobo Center Marquee Video Art Series||Intermittent Delight||John S. and James L. Knight Foundation||Won|
|2019||Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts||Akosua Adoma Owusu: Welcome to the Jungle||The Westridge Foundation||Won|
|2005||Ajube Kete||writer, director, producer, cinematographer|
|2006||Tea 4 Two||director, producer, cinematographer|
|2007||Intermittent Delight||director, producer, cinematographer|
|2008||Revealing Roots||actress, director, producer|
|2008||Boyant: A Michael Jordan in a Speedo is Far Beyond the Horizon||actress, producer|
|2009||Me Broni Ba||director, producer, cinematographer|
|2010-11||Drexciya||director, producer, cinematographer|
|2012||Split Ends, I Feel Wonderful||director, producer|
|2013||Kwaku Ananse||writer, director, producer|
|2015||Bus Nut||director, producer, cinematographer|
|2016||Reluctantly Queer||director, producer, cinematographer|
|2017||On Monday of Last Week||writer, director, producer|
|2018||Mahogany Too||director, producer, cinematographer|
|2019||Pelourinho: They Don’t Really Care About Us||director, producer, cinematographer|
|2019||White Afro||director, producer, cinematographer|
|in production||Black Sunshine (feature film)||writer, director, producer|
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- Johnson, Elizabeth. Female Narratives in Nollywood Melodramas (2016) , p. 113.
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- Lené Hole, Kristin. Film Feminisms: A Global Introduction  (2018).
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- Nyeck, S.N. Routledge Handbook of Queer African Studies  (2019).
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- Dasilva, Dax. Age of Union: Igniting The Changemaker  (2020).
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Akosua Adoma Owusu.|
- Official Website
- Akosua Adoma Owusu at the Internet Movie Database
- Akosua Adoma Owusu on MUBI
- Black women filmmakers
- Ghanaian Filmmakers
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