Just like the African king from the Mali Empire, London based, filmmaker and photographer Musa, also considers himself to be full of richness, but his wealth stems from his love of cinematics. ‘Lessons from our fathers’ is the title of his absurdist film that analyses pride in men.
Back in October last year, I discovered his Instagram through mutual friends and little did I know that Musa would soon become my go-to film advisor. Located in Walthamstow, I stubbed upon a quaint styled café where I decided to station myself for this phone conversation. Kindly taking time out of his crazy schedule, Musa speaks on the excogitation behind his first short film. “I’ve always been into it, but I don’t think it was conscious” he explains, “I studied psychology at university, so in a way, my obsession with film and imagery comes out of a love for the human mind and trying to understand people.” He said in an endearing tone. With that thought in the air, I posed the question if psychology and film go hand in hand, to which he replied, “I think it does! It’s an exploration of psychology or philosophy but aesthetically pleasing to look at. My degree was just a more digestible form of studying people, while film is just a sexier way of making a comment on a person.”
Life imitates art, but in the case of Musa, art imitates life. Following the success of Matthew A. Cherry and his Oscar award-winning animation, Musa turned to Kickstarter funding and effectively surpassed his £4,200 goal. “I was overjoyed and overwhelmed by the support. It was the affirmation that stamped it home” he says with a tone of excitement, “For the longest time I was applying for funding but was going nowhere. I turned to Kickstarter because it fits with the spirit of independent film-making and a lot of the greats used it for their first features.” In agreement, I nod and credit Matthew Cherry as a fellow great. “Barry Jenkins too. He had no budget for his first feature, just friends. He called on them and they went to San Francisco to help him. It’s nice to know that my friends, family and community had my back.”
The stigma of masculinity has been widely discussed, but Musa unconventionally fell into its theme. “It was a matter of my personal perspective and I think that’s the important part of filmmaking” he clarifies, “Writers and painters work straight from the mind, but because of all the steps that go into filmmaking, a lot of the time you’re in the story. The hardest part is detaching yourself from it.” A lifelong goal for Musa has always been to create a short film, but as many creatives know, it’s not as simple as it seems. “I was writing a short and nothing stuck. It wasn’t until I finished watching a film and immediately thought, this is a good idea. I sat down and smashed it out for three and a half hours.” The result of his actions became clear, he birthed a short film. With fatherhood becoming the main theme, the thought of whether the moving picture, paid ode to his own father arose. He sighs in thought and answered, “It’s inevitable that it relates to my life, but I wouldn’t say it’s a direct take. My dad is a proper loving chilled back guy, so I wouldn’t say there’s any parallel to the character, but there are things that happen in it that reference my own relation.”
Outside of his first animated project, Musa has worked with some well-recognised brands, one being advertising agency, Rankin. “I haven’t gone indie, it’s just everyone starts off on a journey and for me, it was always to understand people and do narrative work. I’ve met and worked with some incredible creatives that have taught me a lot.” He empathises that working has allowed him to build his own crew, and urges aspiring filmmakers to stay hungry and do stuff because they go hand in hand.
As the interview draws to a close, I’m reminded of that fact that we haven’t conversed about the release date, to which I’m informed, “I’m going to put it through festivals first and see how it does. Deon Edwards, shout out to Deon, created an innovate film titled, ‘We love Moses’ and it got bought up by HBO. So, depending on what happens to me, I may have a screening for it.” For eager film lovers, don’t worry about being left high and dry. Musa posts a list every Sunday on Instagram highlighting his watches of the week, reinforcing the statement that when you love something you make the time for it. “I’ve told myself to watch a film a day, but sometimes. I’ll get crazy obsessed and watch two. It helps to have it be a part of the job.”
Words by Marcia Veiga