Mogul gets 1.5 million pounds for black film

Filming for the biggest independent black movie yet to be made in Britain is scheduled to start in October. The pounds 1.5m project, using only black actors, is the brain-child of the critically acclaimed London-based director Kwesi Owusu.

The film, set in the capital, will focus on the vibrant culture of modern black Britain and

is intended to have a mass-

audience appeal.

After his success with the much-praised Ama, the first African film to be shot in London which was funded by Channel Four, Mr Owusu has already raised 90 per cent of the funding for the new venture.

Mr Owusu, who is also the managing director of the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road, says the new film will be a comedy-thriller with the working title, Where Have All The Good Men Gone?

He has received pledges of financial and practical support from black entertainers in Britain and community groups throughout London.

Although pounds 1.5m is a minuscule amount compared with the multi-million pound budgets enjoyed by Hollywood mogels, Mr Owusu has had to work for more than a year

persuading backers from Britain and America, black and white, that his film has commercial potential.

He has bartered the promise of free advertising and promotional partnerships in return for the use of clubs and premises for location filming.

Now, with just a few thousand pounds still to raise, he is confident filming will begin in Tottenham in the autumn and be finished next summer. Club owners in Tottenham have offered premises for location filming.

The plot will centre on a young jazz musician and his relationships with several women.

Mr Owusu is determined to prove that a film entirely about black issues can be a wide-spread success. 'It is a topical subject - relationships between black people in modern Britain. It is moral debate and a universal theme - love.

'The point is that I want to show that a black subject can make money, and that you do not have to compromise.'

Mr Owusu is coy about which actors he wants to play the leading rolls because contracts have still to be signed. But Colin Salmon, who had a leading role opposite Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect II, is being tipped as one star. Other contenders are Vaz Blackwood and the Jamaican-born comedian Oliver Samuel.

Casting has also raised important political issues. For example, Mr Owusu was careful not to be drawn into the trap of giving the female lead to a black woman who typified the white vision of black beauty. 'Black actresses have trouble finding varied roles unless they conform to a white image of beauty - fair skin, slim nose. We are choosing actresses to promote a kind of beauty which is not normally celebrated.

The film will be previewed at the Electric Theatre, built in 1911 and the oldest cinema in the Western world. Mr Owusu and his company, backed by the black newspaper the Voice, and the radio station Choice FM, opened it as a cinema specialising in black films last September.

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