HFF 2015 Interview: Born With It Director/Writer/Producer Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr.

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2015 Heartland Film Festival Official Selection, Narrative Short Born With It is about a half Japanese half black boy who tries to prove to his new classmates that his dark skin is not a disease on his first day of school in a small Japanese town.


We spoke with Director/Writer/Producer Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr. about his film:

HF: What is your film about, and how did the project come to be?

EO: My film is about a half Japanese half black boy who is ostracized for looking darker than his classmates and has to prove to them that he is “clinically” normal enough to play with. The project came about from my own amalgam of experiences living throughout Asia. I set it in Japan after finding out about a half Japanese friend that went through the experience of being called “sick” because of his skin color.

HF: What was your role in the production?

EO: I was the writer, director and one of the producers of the film.

HF: Why did you submit to the Heartland Film Festival? Have you been to the Festival before?

EO: I just moved back to the States and have been looking to screen the film in festivals throughout the US. After doing research, I found that Heartland was consistently recommended as a great film festival to screen at in the States so I applied. This is my first time at the festival.

HF: This year’s tagline is “Movies That Stay with You” – what lasting effect will your film have on moviegoers?

EO: I hope that my film will help those that are different feel less isolated and more confident in their uniqueness.

HF: What has inspired you to become a filmmaker?

EO: I actually got into filmmaking as a result of cinematic video games. I grew up on video games and longed to create worlds that had an emotional effect on people the experienced them. Ironically, the best way to get trained to learn how to do that is as a film director. So I’ve been doing that since.

HF: What is something that you know about filmmaking now, but you weren’t told when you started your career?

EO: Making everything visual. At the beginning all I cared about was conveying my “story” even if it was all through dialog. But the strongest films are those you don’t have to explain.

HF: What are some of your favorite movies? What’s your favorite worst movie (you know it’s bad, but still love it)?

EO: Tony Takitani and Unbreakable are my favorites. Zoolander is my favorite bad movie.

HF: How many film festivals has your film been a part of? What do you like the most about the festival experience?

EO: I would say about 25-30 maybe. I love meeting filmmakers from around the world literally. A lot of them I still keep in touch with. I also love to see audiences in different places react to my film in different ways. In Japan, no one laughed in my film, but in the States sometimes my film turns into a bit of a comedy. Audiences are interesting….

HF: Heartland Film Festival moviegoers love filmmaker Q&As. Let’s say a Festival attendee wants to earn some brownie points—what is a question that you’d love to answer, but haven’t yet been asked?

EO: How did you get the kids to act naturally? To which I would answer, “the kids were actually unnatural a lot of the time. It was chewing teeth all the time. For some scenes, I got rid of the script and had them improvise. But other scenes, I simply tried to fix it in editing. I edited around bad takes and got lucky enough to have OK takes.


See Born With It in Shorts Program 11: This, That, and the Other

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