Jonah, an African short film by Kibwe Tavares
Jonah wins at Cannes’ Young Directors Awards
Kibwe Tavares was the discovery of the 2014 Cannes Lions advertising festival: the Brit cracked the Saatchi & Saatchi Young Directors Award showcase and was a triple-winner at the CFP-e Shots Young Director Awards, scooping the short film prize, the Jury’s Special Awards, and the Audience Award for Jonah. The visually-stunning short film was also a Vimeo staff pick and screened at Sundance.
Shot in Zanzibar over two-and-a-half-weeks, Jonah is the story of two young friends with big dreams in a small town. When they photograph a giant fish leaping out of the sea, their home town is transformed into a tourist hotspot, but the seedy capitalist reality doesn’t match their dreams. So when Mbwana meets the fish again – both of them forgotten, ruined and old – he decides only one of them can survive.
Like District 9 before it, Jonah combines visual effects with Africa’s gritty textures with stunning results. Watch the CGI visual effects breakdown below.
Kibwe told Little Black Book that the film was inspired both by reading Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea and by a three-month trip around East Africa, where he spent time in small fishing villages in Lamu, Pate Island and Zanzibar. He originally wanted to shoot in Lamu, but moved to Zanzibar because of security issues, reworking the story from the effects of a huge contained port being built in Lamu to the effects of the tourism boom in Zanzibar, according to his interview with 1.4 editor Lyndy Stout.
While Kibwe told TED his love of Manga was part of his interest in science fiction, he also attributed it to his training as an architect. “As an architect, you’re always thinking about the future, too. You build in narratives that are in the future, because you’re always thinking, ‘When I design a building, I’m designing it for what happens 10, 15 years into the future.’ And when you start looking at the future, it’s hard not to have that kind of science-fiction element.”
Kibwe burst onto the scene in 2011 with his debut animation, Robots of Brixton, which won a jury prize at Sundance and was a Vimeo Staff Pick. He was named one of Fast Company’s ‘100 Most Creative People in Business 2012’ and was recently awarded a prestigious TED fellowship. He’s now represented by Nexus Productions for commercials in the UK.