Ghanaian filmmaker Frances Bodomo thanks early years in Hong Kong for success

Ghanaian tells how spending her early years in city has helped her career

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2013, 4:06am

A young Ghanaian filmmaker says her formative years in multicultural Hong Kong have helped to put her on the brink of international acclaim.

Frances Bodomo's short film Boneshaker was selected from thousands for screening at America's prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, later this month.

Bodomo was born in Ghana and lived in Norway and the United States before moving to Hong Kong aged 11.

And the 24-year-old, educated for seven years at West Island School, says this upbringing has inspired her to tell stories about people who have lived in many countries, but struggle to find a place to call home.

It is precisely this experience that spawned Boneshaker, which tells the story of a Ghanaian family in the southern US state of Louisiana.

Faced with a problem child prone to tantrums, the parents believe the girl has an evil spirit inside her and decide to have her exorcised at a African American Pentecostal church.

"What interests me is they are so far away yet they are trying to perform Ghanaian rituals. That sort of problem is what it is to be a migrant, or a third-culture kid," Bodomo said.

Her ease with strangers from different places almost led to trouble for Bodomo and her film crew - but it also proved useful for the film.

She recalled stepping into a pub in Louisiana filled with old white men. One of them came up and hugged her, whispering that this would show the others she was "all right".

She had not realised that she might not be welcome in some places as a black woman. But within 30 minutes, the men in the pub were teaching Bodomo and her crew how to square dance and giving them items they needed for filming, such as a tent and some wading shoes.

"If I hadn't grown up in Hong Kong, with people completely different from me, I would think I have to find someone who looks like me before I can start the conversation," she said.

Bodomo has a bachelor's degree in English literature and film studies from Columbia University and is now studying filmmaking at New York University. Boneshaker is her eighth film.

Bodomo's film was one of 65 selected for the Sundance festival from a record 8,102 submissions.

She is hoping to make a film in Hong Kong about young people spending summer in the city before starting university abroad.