Obinna Robert Onyeri TALKS ‘ALL I KNOW’ at BFI FLARE FILM FESTIVAL

The 37th edition of BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival took place in March.

BFI Flare is one of the world’s most significant and long-standing queer film events in the LGBTQIA+ calendar, and will take place at BFI Southbank. Offering a selection of titles on BFI Player to UK-wide audiences, and to international audiences via Five Films for Freedom it is in its 8th year.

Running from 16-19 March the BFI Flare Film Festival was divided into three thematic programme strands: HEARTS, BODIES and MINDS, and this year presents 28 World Premieres (across features and shorts) with 58 features and 90 shorts from 41 countries.

The British Blacklist spoke to filmmaker Obinna Robert Onyeri whose film All I Know featured at the festival. All I Know follows Dapo who goes missing after a hook-up, Ebube questions whether keeping silent will protect his friend or put him in further danger.

Please introduce yourself …

My name is Obinna Robert Onyeri, I’m a Los Angeles based filmmaker of Nigerian descent. My work has earned me the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) Directing Fellowship award, and the George Burns and Gracie Allen Scholarship. I hold an MFA degree in film production from The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). A director with a strong knack for drama, suspense, and thriller, I’m always eager to create and collaborate on cinematic and inclusive stories. 

Why ‘All I Know‘?

I knew I wanted to make a cinematic film in Nigeria. I also wanted to make a film that simultaneously tackles an important social issue but also integrates my love and interest in the specific genre of filmmaking, mainly thriller and film noir. I also wanted to include an element of surrealism in it. All I Know became the result of that.  

Tell us about your team …

My team on this project – in Nigeria and the USA – was fantastic. Without my crew, this film wouldn’t be what it is. A work I’m so proud of. Grateful to everyone who brought their talents and skills into this challenging production, especially, I would like to thank my on-the-line crew members – my line producer Esse Akwawa, my collaborative cinematographer Gionatan Tecle, to whom I owe the beautiful visuals in the film too, and my composer Alonso Priori, who is a music mastermind. Special shout out to my editing team and sound team.

What does the story of All I Know mean to you personally?

This is one of the big pressing social issues that gets largely ignored by the general public in Nigeria, in Africa, and in other parts of the world. This film is important to me because it is bringing awareness not just to Nigeria but to any country that has a similar social-political climate as what I’m depicting in this film. Especially with the current events across the world that are trending towards active violence towards the queer community, e.g., look at the American Midwest and South.

All I Know‘ – Obinna Robert Onyeri

Tell us about a challenging moment during this project that you had to dig deep to get through?

The challenging moment that comes to mind is the climax scene towards the end – the ‘ambush scene‘ (as I call it). I knew that for the film to work that scene had to work. The scene is not just the narrative climax but also the emotional climax of the film, and of course, that was the moment Murphy’s Law came into play and everything that could go wrong went wrong. It was a night shoot, and everyone at that point was tired, there was an issue with a crew member who was crucial for the scene – the steady cam operator we had hired for that day brought incomplete gear for the shoot. My cinematographer and I had to step back for a second, reconvene, and figure out how to approach the scene in an unplanned way but in a way that proved that we both understood the story enough and that we could improvise on the spot and still have that scene as emotionally impactful.  

Share a memorable moment from initial idea to final edit?

Collaborating with my composer on the score of the film. Our goal was to create music that perfectly captures the varying moods of the film. We went through different genres as we scored the film – from afrobeat to African instrumentals to alternative rock to pop melodrama. That musical journey was super fun.

Which scene best defines what you love about this project?

My favourite scene in the film is the restaurant scene when Ebube (the main protagonist) lays his head on the table and the events which occur after that. The scene uses a bold transition and editing technique to evolve the viewers’ understating and perception of space, time, and rhythm.

What does it mean to you that All I Know screened at The BFI Flare film festival and that the film has been selected as one of the Five Films for Freedom global digital initiative in partnership with The British Council to make your film available globally to everyone?

It means a lot truly. The British Council Five Films for Freedom caught me by surprise. It shows in our current climate how significant these types of stories are and the institutions ready to support and elevate these stories to a global scale. It encourages me as a filmmaker to keep making the art I’m most passionate about, art that humanises those who have been made an outcast by society, stories of those who have been othered, and stories that touch the soul.

What’s next?

I’m currently working on a new draft of a feature script that is in line with the theme and genre of this short film. If any producer or investor is interested, I’m happy to send them a copy of the script.

How do we keep up to date with you and your work?

You can follow me on Instagram: @obibekeh. You can also find my IMDb page online. 


Find out more BFI Flare here.

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