INTERVIEW + TRAILER PREMIERE: ‘Ori Inu’ Graciously Shows Why Black Spirituality Matters
By Eye Candy
September 11, 2015
Chelsea Odufu, is the director, producer and writer of Ori Inu: In Search of Self, a thought-provoking film that tells the story of a young immigrant woman’s quest to examine her roots in the Afro-Brazilian religious practice Candomble. The film challenges us to look at the ways we are forced to suppress our identity and spirituality in order to conform to westernized cultural norms. The narrative of Black spirituality is often depicted as being barbaric and sinful. However, Ori Inu tells a different story, one that is regal, full of grace and rooted in director/producer/writer Chelsea Odufu and her brother, producer/writer Emann Odufu’s Guyanese and Nigerian background. AFROPUNK sat down with the brother and sister to discuss the evolution of this film which started out as Chelsea’s senior project at New York University.
By Priscilla Ward, AFROPUNK Contributor
How is it working together as a brother sister team?
Chelsea: I mean I think naturally working as a team has its ups and downs and it’s difficult. But I think there is also something very special about being able to vibe and have that sort of chemistry [as a brother and sister]. My brother is really able to push me to have limitless dreams and push harder, because he knows this is us this is our project, this is our baby and we obviously want to work as hard as we can to make it happen.
Emann: It’s rough at times, but I mean there are more good times than there are bad times. I mean I think everything is a push and pull and I mean working with another creative, everyone has their own idea of how they want to do something. We try to make compromises for one another and figure stuff out.
Where are you from originally?
Chelsea: Guyanese and Nigerian it’s an interesting combination. But it influenced a lot of the film and why we decided to shoot in Trinidad, and we paid close attention to Candomoble which is based in Brazil. African spirituality and also just the immigration narrative of just a black Afro Latina and the diaspora experience of our family. People having to come from Africa and having to understand who they are.
Emann: It’s about embracing all the things that make up the Black spirituality world that we live in. There are many different narratives and even us we come from the Caribbean and our family is very diverse. We are like African and Guyanese, but I think we come across more African than anything else but our family has Indians in it, it has Asians in it every single race is pretty much in our family. Maybe not through complete blood maybe through marriage or through something, but it’s all there. The Caribbean is a melting pot.
Tell me about the evolution of this film and what helped you all to come to this, what inspired it?
Emann: Right now we are reading ‘The Wine of Astonishment’ by Earl Lovelace. Actually it’s kind of a funny story behind it the spiritual Baptist movement in Trinidad.
Chelsea: After reading this and also an article from NPR about people being prosecuted for practicing candomble, I knew had to go there with the film. We are Christians so we really had to step away for a minute and do some research to make sure we weren’t eroticizing other religions.
How do you think your film speaks to what is going on now?
Chelsea: I think there’s a very spiritual and revolutionary awakening going on and this could be the reawakening of the Civil Rights Movement we see going on. I think there’s a new back to Africa movement that people are embracing and people are being more conscious. I think it’s about reclaiming a space and being very Black, but it’s cool.
Emann: Christian and college organizations were activists, so it’s opening up a different breed of activism. However, different aspects of blackness are being policed in different forms.
What sort of opposition did you all bump up against in the process?
Chelsea: A lot of people thought it was ambitious because we didn’t have any money.
Who were your main supporters?
Chelsea: At some points this really became a family production. I mean yeah my Mom was like the foundation of this whole film. I mom did stuff in creative as well.
What are some early memories that you have of your mom exposing you to art?
Chelsea: Earth Wind and Fire, but now I’m like oh that was Afrofuturism.
You can follow the progress of this film on social:
She aspires to one day have her own cartoon. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Macaronifro