Interview, Magazin

Ebele Okoye on Poetry film and her short »Anna Blume«

Ebele Okoye: »Generally Dadaistic works qualify as my favourite and looking at it from that angle, I would say Kurt Schwitters is on the top of the list of my favourite poets.«

Ebele Okoyes poetry film Anna Blume is our FILM OF THE MONTH SEPTEMBER 2015. We talked to her some weeks ago.

Poetryfilmkanal: When and how did you come up with the idea to make a film based on a poem for the first time?

Okoye: Going down memory lane now, I remember the first time I had the urge to make a film based on a poetry was in 1987. I had read a poetry collection titled Someone Talking to Something by an African Writer called Ama Ata Aidoo. I never succeeded in making any film because I had no means of making a film out of anything, be it live action or animation. I had not gained Animation knowledge and I had no video camera. Eventually in 2006, I made my first film The Lunatic out of a prose written and discarded by my then flat mate Simone Kanter.

On how many poetry films did you work since then?

Not enough! Since then I have made only four poetry films.

Is there a poetry that you particularly like or that had a big influence on you?

I am not a person who can say that a particular work is my favourite. I guess this is because there are different aspects to what impresses me about a particular work. However, I would say that generally Dadaistic works qualify as my favourite and looking at it from that angle, I would say Kurt Schwitters is on the top of the list of my favourite poets.

Charles Baudelaire is another poet whose works I admire so much. Perhaps because of the circumstances under which I got to read Les Fleurs du mal. I am not certain if the German translation does the work justice though, but it really captivated me.

Have you been in touch with the respective authors of the poems while working on each film? If so, at which point are you sharing your film idea with the author and how much influence has his/her comment on the development of the film?

I am in touch with some of the Authors but never during the production. This is probably because I work spontaneously and swiftly. I do these just as a means of expressing MYSELF, devoid of any intention of making an ›awesome film‹. To that effect, the authors only get to see what I have done when I am through. Nevertheless, if an opportunity arises where a poet asks for us to go into a co-operation to produce any of their works, that would be a much welcomed idea.

Are your films independent productions? If not, how do you get funding for them?

Aside Anna Blume which was a German Bulgarian Co-Production, financed through the Robert Bosch Promotional Prize for Animation, all other have been independent productions.

Do you think that animation has a particular quality that fits to the way a poem works? If so, can you tell us a bit more about what you think makes animation so special in this respect?

It is quite simple: Being that most poems are never direct literary expressions, in my opinion, Animation offers the best medium to explore a poetry film because it gives you the freedom of an absolutely abstract visual expression, of this is called for. 

How closely/loosely do you think text and visuals should be related in a poetry film?

There is no rule of thumb. Some things call for direct representation and juxtaposition of images and text while some others might call for visual translations which might not be directly recognizable with the text. I do think it is all a matter of personal choice and what one wants to achieve with the poem. I personally like of simply bring out the images the words invoke in me without further considerations of how to twist things to make an awesome film.

Can you give us an insight into your process of developing visuals and storyline for a poem when working on a poetry film?

Unlike in narrative animation, I do not have a laid down working process for poetry film. I have had to pick some words and draw out the individual images associated with them. In some other cases I tackled it sequence by sequence and built the visuals directly while the story is evolving.

How important do you consider the voice-over and sound-design? Does the text of the poem need to be visualised or heard at all?

Visualization of the text of a poem is not necessary but I don’t know if I have succeeded in NOT doing these. You know that the ideas most of us have in our heads as critics are always stronger than the ideas which we lay down as film makers. Sometimes we succeed in doing these and other times we have to make the text visible or audible.

After realising several films that deal with visual poetry: do you have any personal rules, do’s and don’ts when working on a poetry film?

No! I don’t. Poetry film for me is ART and as a painter too who paints without rules, this is also extended to poetry film making.

Ebele Okoye, Jg. 1969, ist eine nigerianische Malerin und Animationszeichnerin. Nach einem Kunststudium am Institute of Management and Technology in Enugu von 1985 bis 1989 war sie freischaffende Graphikerin und Cartoonistin in Lagos, Nigeria. Ab 1995 widmete sie sich ausschließlich der Malerei. 2000 migrierte sie nach Deutschland und studierte an der Fachhochschule Düsseldorf Kommunikationsdesign. Sie bildete sich ab 2003 an der Internationale Filmschule Köln zur Trick- und Animationsfilmzeichnerin weiter. Seit 2008 lebt und arbeitet sie in Berlin.