Idris Elba and Mo Abudu team up to nurture African film talent

(CNN) ‘Luther’ star Idris Elba joins forces with Nigerian media mogul Mo Abudu in a mission to promote representation and diverse storytelling in the global film and TV industry.

The Golden Globe winner, who is of Sierra Leonean and Ghanaian descent, will work with Abudu to develop emerging talent from Africa through their respective production companies, Green Door Pictures and EbonyLife Media, the pair said in a joint statement Thursday.

The partnership takes a two-pronged approach: arming students at the EbonyLife Creative Academy in Lagos, Nigeria with the skills and experience they need to thrive in a competitive industry, and producing a range of authentic African films and TV shows for the global market.

The announcement comes seven years after Elba stood up in the UK Parliament and spoke about the importance of diversity on screen for society as a whole. In 2020, he called for more diversity in an essay for the British newspaper Times, writing that “when the going gets tough, diversity often suffers” and “we have a duty to develop new talent”.

The actor, who is best known for starring in the TV show ‘The Wire’ and Hollywood movies including ‘Beast’, ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’, ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ and ‘The Suicide Squad ‘, ” wants to work with budding African filmmakers, to ensure that the continent’s talent gets the attention it deserves.

“I’ve always been passionate about using my platform to make a positive impact,” Elba said in a statement. “By partnering with Mo, we aim to provide the next generation of storytellers with a world-class free industry education and bring their authentic voices to the forefront.”

Through her EbonyLife Media company, based in Lagos, Abudu has produced original TV shows and produced Nollywood films such as ‘Fifty’ and ‘The Wedding Party’. In 2020, she signed a multi-title deal with streaming giant Netflix to create two original series and several movies. The company also works with TV and film companies such as Sony Pictures Television, BBC, Lionsgate and Starz.

Launched by Abudu in 2021, the EbonyLife Creative Academy provides free education, mentorship and production training for 480 students in the film and TV industry each year.

The four-semester program, which includes courses such as acting, screenwriting, and sound, is open to applicants ages 18 and older and is funded through a mix of government grants and private donations. After graduation, former students can further hone their skills as interns on EbonyLife projects.

Speaking to CNN, Abudu said Elba approached her about replicating the EbonyLife Creative Academy model across the continent after seeing the impact of the original Lagos school, and the couple’s long-term strategy is to spend the next five years roll out another 10-15 academies. .

“We are doing something that we have not done with any of our other partners, which is capacity building across the continent,” she said. “If we want to make sure we can compete globally, we need to make sure our emerging filmmakers have those skills.”

Elba described his collaboration with Abudu as “a step towards creating a more inclusive and diverse media landscape, one that represents the voices and experiences of Africa and its diaspora around the world.”

Abudu told CNN she recognizes the power of film as a tool for positive change and believes partnering with Elba is “another step in the right direction” in helping build and promote authentic representation.

“There are stories to be told and I’m excited that together we can build a wonderful array of projects that we can bring to these streamers and broadcasters and say, ‘Listen, now is the time.'”

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