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Owusu ’19 researched and wrote screenplays as part of three-city summer schedule

Owusu ’19 researched and wrote screenplays as part of three-city summer schedule

By Claudia Owusu ’19 

This past summer has been the most formative and exciting thing I’ve experienced in a very long time. Through the Otterbein University Department of English Travel Grant and the Otterbein University Creative Work and Research Grant, I was able to travel to three cities and work on my own individualized research. The exploration I took on was rooted on the complexity of Black history and the importance of Black people telling their own stories.

I used Beloved by Toni Morrison and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, two books that deal with the journey of slavery, the theme of remembrance and the trauma that it replicates. I also used three films to support my research: Black Girl (Mbissine Thérèse Diop, 1966), Daughters of the Dust (Julia Dash, 1991), and Heritage Africa (Kwaw Ansah, 1955).

In May, I visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. While there, I was able to take in the impact of slavery in American history, and the symbol the museum itself presents both to the Americas and Africa. After D.C, I went to New York, where I interned at the New York African Film Festival. From watching short and feature films to contacting filmmakers about scheduling and transportation, I was able to gain a good perspective on the kind of stories African artists are telling, and the politics their stories deal with. Being in New York, a city vibrant with culture and summer traditions, helped me to think about my own identity as an African in America, and the responsibility I have as an artist to unabashedly tell my story.

After New York, I attended The Nate Parker Film Institute at Wiley College, located in Marshall, Texas. The program was organized by filmmaker and actor Nate Parker, who began this institute after his film The Birth of a Nation (2016). Throughout the week, the other students and I were divided into groups of screenwriters, directors, actors, cinematographers and producers. I was part of the screenwriting team. Each day grew more challenging as we worked together to write, film and edit a short film assignment we had been given. Parker was a big part of making this short film possible. He was very present throughout the week, leading us through lessons and helping us to understand the keys of filmmaking and the impact of the artist. We finished the week-long program with a community screening of Baggage, our short film about two sisters dealing with the troubles of colorism.

After the program, I returned home to Columbus where I finished my own screenplay, Landline, a short film about a young girl trying to find herself while her father is being deported. I was able to complete the filming process with the knowledge I gained throughout the summer. I’m currently in the post production stages, wrestling with editing and the key ways to help bring the story alive on screen.

Undergoing this research helped me to ask myself questions I always thought were too big, or let alone unanswerable. I don’t yet have all of the knowledge to process everything, but being able to search, write and create, has given me the audacity to claim who I am as an artist. I am currently compiling my notes and trying to process the experience. It was a wonderful opportunity and I can’t begin to express my gratitude.

Find out more about Otterbein's Dept. of English.

Learn more about the interdisciplinary Race and Ethnic Studies program at Otterbein.