From Jos to Berlin: Meet filmmaker, Ulan Garba Matta

From Jos to Berlin: Meet filmmaker, Ulan Garba Matta

Ulan Garba Matta is a creative born and brought up in Jos, North-Central Nigeria. A 2017 Alumna of Berlin International Film Festival’s talent program, Berlinale Talents, she is a storyteller, filmmaker, and writer. Weaned Child Entertainment was founded by Ulan and her co-founder Umar Turaki with the hope of creating a forum for creatives in the North to be proud of. Here is what she had to say about producing films set in Jos, meeting the challenge of financing the production of short films, and the Berlinale Talents experience.

A scene from Weaned Child Entertainment’s movie, “SALT”

Your production company, Weaned Child has films such as “Deviant”, “Salt”, and “Tolerance”, what inspired each of these films?

Life always inspires us, if it is not a ridiculous thing to say, but the layers, complexities and courage to live a life especially as a Nigerian. This we find very inspiring.

It is more popular to see movies produced in the city hubs of Lagos and Abuja on the international scene. As a moviemaker from quiet Jos, how have you been able to break this mold?

By showing what life is like in Jos, I believe. We try to be authentic to where we are coming from and apparently the world realizes we are not all painted with one brush stroke. The story of a couple coping in the first day of married life, with their very Jos way of speaking and mannerism is also highly appealing. This is because at the end of the day they are people with real situations that anyone can relate to no matter how they look or sound.

Ulan Garba Matta was one of the 250 selected participants at the 2017 Berlinale Talents program held in Germany

You were one of the 250 participants selected for this year’s Berlinale Talents. Tell us about your experience.

It was the best week so far of 2017. I met a lot of inspiring people. Some were people who like me live in and out of a place but have still found a way to make films like my roommate from Kazakhstan. Others had achieved the kind of things I dream of and shared ideas with me on the ways to get it done. It was a rich experience of listening to experts, learning new things and being inspired. Two experiences that I will mention was listening to Ana Lily Amirpour (“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”) talk about filmmaking, Bruce Lee, philosophy and just being crazy (I like her a lot). As well as Nicolas Becker and Robert Aiki Aubery Lowe’s talk on body experiences: the sounds from inside. I have a very new appreciation for what it takes to create an experience for an audience just using sound. My one regret which I must mention was not listening to Raoul Peck talk about his documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro”. I also had access to too many movies which time would not allow to talk about. Altogether, it was massive fun.

Let’s talk finances. Many filmmakers, in particular young creatives struggle to access funds for projects, what have you done to overcome this challenge?

I have not overcome the challenge. There are basically no funds. The only thing that has made it bearable quite frankly is living in Jos and having access to the bountiful generosity of my people. This usually involves getting help in time, availability and non-cash resources. The film school being here, also means being able to share skill with other filmmakers and get stuff done.

As a growing company, how do you keep your business profitable in terms of budgeting and recouping investments?

There is no market for short films In Nigeria. So our main thing was to make good films that will help us build the body of work that gives us access to the places where we can get the funding to make feature films for example. This has been our investment. It took a while, but is now beginning to pay off. To be specific, we do writing consulting as the main source of generating an income for the company and from there we pay ourselves.

A Scene from Weaned Child Entertainment’s Movie, “Tolerance”

If you had all the resources you need, which project will you execute right away?

My family might end up not seeing me for the next ten years, I tell you. It will be a battle between two feature film scripts I have been working on. One is based on the true life story of a teenage boy from Benin which broke my heart, and the only way to heal it is to tell his story. And the other is meant to be a comedic satire on how religion has affected the diversity usually

A movie/script you would have loved to be a part of. Which line/scene would you have added or removed?

Sunset Boulevard written by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman, Jr written in 1949. I would do nothing more to it. Should I tell you how perfect this script is? I have refused to watch the final film. I will never watch it.

All your memories except one are going to be erased, which would you choose?

The one where I am sitting on the booth of my mum’s car, look up to the sky and see a golden silo. That happened, erasing it will mean I imagined it.

Featured Image: Talents Pool 1 @David Ausserhofer, Berlinale 2017 

Interview culled from THE CEO Africa Magazine

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