August 5, 2016
African Artists’ Association member Kofi Bamfo has been making waves on the film festival circuit with his performance in Solitary, a short about a man who endures years of solitary confinement in prison. Earlier this year, Bamfo made a trip to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France where the film was accepted into the Short Film Corner. The film was also recently screened at the White House as part of the March on Washington Film Festival in the nation’s capital. We caught up with the actor this week to talk about the film and other projects he has in the pipeline.
What’s the story of Solitary?
The story parallels the story of Jonah from the Bible. A young man is thrown into solitary confinement for three years, just as Jonah was thrown into the belly of the whale for three days. Over time the character goes through a drastic transformation, suffering from the effects of being deprived from human contact through isolation. In the end, he is put before a social worker to determine whether he is capable of being reintegrated into society.
How did you get the opportunity to play the lead role?
I saw the casting notice on Backstage West. The story behind that is divine. After applying for the role on Backstage, I got a response from the director with a time and date. So on that day, I arrived at the AFI campus where they were holding the audition. It was a Saturday and the entire school was closed. According to the security guards, there were no auditions being held there. I thought I had missed it or they had already cast the part. I went back home feeling pretty bummed out about it. A month later I got an email from the director with another time and day to audition for the role, plus a different version of the script.
There are tons of films that get produced every year. Why do you think this one is stands out?
I believe this story stands out because of the subject matter and my willingness to be vulnerable to the circumstance of solitary confinement. It’s such an important topic and this film contributes to the continued narrative of reform in this area.
What was the production team’s marketing strategy for this project?
The marketing strategy has been simple: apply to as many festivals as we can and see where it lands.
What was your impression of the Cannes Film Festival and would you recommend it to others?
Cannes was by far the most extravagant festival I have experienced. It was like a Cinderella ball on the French Riviera for filmmakers from all over the world. It definitely is a producer, director and buyers’ playground but if you are an actor in a film that made it to the festival, I highly recommend going. It’s a great place to network and meet some of the most amazing filmmakers you could possibly meet. There’s also a level of respect people have for one another, one, for having your film there and two, for simply making the effort to be there.
How did Solitary end up at the White House?
We were accepted into the March on Washington Film Festival. Out of one hundred films there were four grand prize winners from each category, and we ended up winning in the student short film category. As a result, all four winners had their film screened at The White House.
If someone were to replicate the film’s success, what are some of the things they’d have to do to accomplish that goal?
I love film that reflects the times of the culture and society. I believe when you have an actor and a director who are both committed to going into the dark places of human psychology and sociology, and are able to present it in the most compelling and creative way, then I believe you have the ingredients for something great.
What lessons about acting/filmmaking/life have you learned through your involvement with this project?
The biggest lesson I learned in terms of acting on film through this project is: the chemistry of the actor and director is essential. It’s like any relationship, both sides have to allow the other’s input.
How can we see Solitary?
It’s only being shown at film festivals right now but we are hoping to release it on a wider platform.
What’s next for you?
Right now I’m shooting a vigilante-inspired web series and also working on writing my one man play based on Kwame Nkrumah.
Follow Kofi Bamfo on Twitter.
– The African Artists’ Association Staff Writer