Mama Africa: Growing Up Urban

A trilogy of short films explores the hardships of coming of age in a challenging world—written and directed by African women

"I've always found strength in Mother Africa, and I find inspiration in her young daughters, like the brilliant filmmakers who bring us these movies.” – Queen Latifah

For Immediate Release Contact: Tina Wynn and Judy Hutson 718-590-4368 

(San Francisco, CA)—ITVS and Wellspring present MAMA AFRICA: GROWING UP URBAN, a tapestry of dynamic stories, told by women about women and the people close to them. Radically different for its urban African context, but universal in its understanding of what it means to come of age in a challenging world, MAMA AFRICA presents a reality rarely created by women from the world's largest continent. MAMA AFRICA airs nationally on PBS in March 2003 (check local listings). 

Women from different regions of the continent, different backgrounds, different cultures, and different religions, have set to 35mm film separate stories portraying what life is like in contemporary Africa. It is the first time that Africa's women have had so much freedom to say what they want, and how they want to say it. 

The project's intention was to bring female directors together from all corners of Africa, and allow them a platform to break the stereotypes that surround their continent. By making this film, these women wanted to broaden the way in which Africans are perceived. They also wanted to entertain with a unique collection of perspectives on African life. 

Three years in the making, MAMA AFRICA is a result of successful collaboration between co-producers Zimmedia and M-Net, Africa's premiere broadcaster, and the European Union's Department of Gender Equality. The film was pre-sold to the European broadcasters Finnish TV and Dutch NPI. U.S. co-production partner Wellspring provided additional financing and brought the project to the Independent Television Service (ITVS), who came on board as the final co-production partner in this truly international co-production. 

The writers/directors of MAMA AFRICA have interpreted the project as being about strong women; about women making sure that their realities and that of their families are heard by the world, and herald the new wave of Africa's female filmmakers, allowing them to speak. 


About the Films 

"Uno's World"
Directed by Bridget Pickering
Uno, a beautiful, but weary 25-year-old single mother is forced to face overwhelming responsibilities after falling in love with a man who does not want commitment. 

"Hang Time"
Directed by Ngozi Onwhura
Departing from the obvious interpretation of the MAMA AFRICA project, "Hang Time” tells the heartbreaking story of a young, poor but talented West African basketball player whose desperation to wear the right shoes to impress an American basketball scout ends in tragedy. 

Directed by Zulfah Otto-Sallies
South Africa
A modern tale of the fight to leave behind a criminal past, "Raya” plays out in the shadow of Cape Town's Table Mountain. Having rebelled against her respectable Muslim upbringing, Raya returns home after a stint in jail, determined to reunite with her mother and daughter, turn her back on her past and make a new life for herself. However, release from her own personal history is not as easy as she thinks. 

About the Filmmakers 

Bridget Pickering 
"Uno's World" 
Bridget Pickering is a young and accomplished producer and director, educated at Syracuse University in television and political science. She has an impressive track record of 11 films produced and directed between 1993 and 1996, ranging from developmental documentaries (The Road to Safe Motherhood) to television drama series (Stories of Tenderness and Power). 

Ngozi Onwhura 
"Hang Time" 
An accomplished TV director with several episodes of the top British TV drama series, Heartbeat, to her credit, Ngozi Onwurah also wrote and directed the prize-winning feature Welcome II the Terrordome. Sometimes fierce (as in Terrordome) and at others more gently humorous (I Bring You Frankincense), Onwurah tackles the clashes and ironies of the apparent gulf separating black and white, while showing that under the skin, emotions are universal. Ngozi's films have won prizes at the Berlin Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, and at NBPC. 

Zulfah Otto-Sallies 
Zulfah Otto-Sallies is a creative director/writer, and an accomplished playwright, author, poet and scriptwriter. In 1995, she published her first short story, "A better life for Moms,” while her first book, Diekie vannie Bo-Kaap, was published in 1997. Zulfah has also written and directed various musical dramas. These have been staged at Cape Town's top theatre venues, including the Baxter, the Grahamstown Arts Festival and Klein Karoo Arts Festivals. 

About the Co-Producers 

Zimmedia is an independent production company based in Harare, Zimbabwe with over fifteen years of prize-winning Zimbabwean and international experience. It is dedicated to developing new talent in Zimbabwe and across Africa. Its documentaries and fiction features have been accepted around the world and celebrate the diversity of African culture. Mbira Music: Spirit of the People chronicles the finest traditional and contemporary musicians in Zimbabwe today. Tides of Gold rediscovers the glories of the region's trading heritage, and Flame, selected for Director's Fortnight, Cannes, confronts the role women played in Zimbabwe's War of Liberation. 

M-Net, Africa's premier pay-TV broadcaster, is the series co-producer. In addition to maintaining a subscriber base in over 40 countries, M-Net has launched a number of industry-related projects and initiatives aimed at providing a platform to promote Africa's significant talent. These include the 10-year old M-Net All Africa Film Awards, the emerging filmmakers pan-African initiative New Directions, and the student project, EDiT. 

Wellspring Media is a leading distributor of notable film, television and video programming for discerning clients with an affinity for productions delivering aesthetic, cultural and intellectual adventure. The company serves as a consistent and trusted provider, releasing only titles worthy of its clients' attention worldwide. 

Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by the vision of media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. Contact ITVS at or visit ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American People.


Posted on February 12, 2003