Idris Elba and Mo Abudu team up to grow African film talent

(CNN) ‘Luther’ star Idris Elba joins Nigerian media mogul Mo Abudu on a mission to champion representation and diverse storytelling in the global film and television industry.

The Golden Globe winner, who is of Sierra Leonean and Ghanaian descent, will work with Abudu to develop emerging talent from Africa through their respective production companies, Green Door Pictures and EbonyLife Media, the pair said. in a joint statement Thursday.

The partnership will take a two-pronged approach: arming students at EbonyLife Creative Academy in Lagos, Nigeria with the skills and experience they need to thrive in a competitive industry, and producing a slate of films and authentic African TV shows for the global market. .

The announcement comes seven years after Elba stood up in the UK Parliament and spoke about the importance of diversity on screen for society as a whole. In 2020, he called for increased diversity in an essay for Britain’s Times newspaper, writing that “when the going gets tough, diversity often suffers” and “we have a duty to nurture new talent”.

The actor, who is best known for his starring roles in the television series “The Wire” and Hollywood films such as “Beast”, “Three Thousand Years of Longing”, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and “The Suicide Squad,” “wants to work with aspiring African filmmakers, to ensure talent from the continent gets the attention it deserves.

“I’ve always been passionate about using my platform to have a positive impact,” Elba said in a statement. “By partnering with Mo, we aim to provide free, world-class industry education to the next generation of storytellers and bring their authentic voices to the fore.”

Through his Lagos-based company EbonyLife Media, Abudu has produced original TV shows and hit Nollywood movies such as ‘Fifty’ and ‘The Wedding Party’. In 2020, she signed a multi-title contract with streaming giant Netflix to create two original series and several films. The company has also partnered with television and film companies such as Sony Pictures Television, BBC, Lionsgate and Starz.

The EbonyLife Creative Academy, launched by Abudu in 2021, provides free education, mentorship and production training in the film and television industry to 480 students each year.

The four-semester program, which includes courses such as acting, screenwriting and sound, is open to applicants ages 18 and older and funded by a mix of government grants and private donations. After graduating, alumni can hone their skills as interns on EbonyLife projects.

Speaking to CNN, Abudu said Elba approached her to replicate the EbonyLife Creative Academy model across the continent after seeing the impact of the original Lagos school, and the couple’s long-term strategy is to deploy another 10 to 15 academies over the next five years. .

“We are doing something that we haven’t done with any of our other partners, which is focused on building capacity across the continent,” she said. “If we want to make sure we can compete on a global scale, we need to make sure our up-and-coming filmmakers have those skills.”

Elba described her collaboration with Abudu as “a step towards creating a more inclusive and diverse media landscape, which represents the voices and experiences of Africa and its Diaspora across the world.”

Abudu told CNN that she recognizes the power of film as a tool for positive change and feels that collaborating with Elba is “another step in the right direction” to help build and foster authentic representation.

“There are stories that need to be told and I’m glad that together we can build a nice slate of projects that we can bring to these streamers and broadcasters and we can say ‘Listen, now is the time’.”

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