Daily updates from the first annual AFI DALLAS International Film Festival presented by Target, founding sponsor Victory Park, March 22 to April 1, 2007

Saturday, March 24, 2007

AUGUST THE FIRST Tells Tale of Family Ties and Troubles

In their debut feature, director Lanre Olabisi and writer Shawn Alexander aim to fill a void.

"Typically in films, when an African American family is portrayed in crisis, it is due to slavery, poverty, drugs, or gangs," Olabisi says. "While these problems do indeed exist, they have not been balanced out by the problems that plague all households in general, such as divorce, depression, and the daily difficulties of raising a family. These are the issues that we aimed to tackle."

Shot on location within the very suburb in which Olabisi grew up, August the First depicts a day (and night) in the lives of the Ibirindes, an American family whose secrets and frustrations are brought to a head when their father, Dipo, unexpectedly returns from Nigeria after a ten-year absence.

Tunde (played by Ian Alsup) hopes to reunite with his father and visit his native Nigeria for the first time. But the rest of the family, including Tunde's sister, Simisola (Kerisse Hutchinson), brother Ade (Sean Phillips) and grandmother (Gloria Sauve) remain suspicious and hostile, while Rhonda (Joy Merriweather), the mother of the household, is driven further into a wine-soaked depression.

And when Dipo's true motives for coming back are called into question, Tunde, and the rest of the family, must take a stand.

Aside from its fresh direction, the film also places two novice actors, Ian Alsup and Sean Phillips, within starring roles—both of whom carry themselves masterfully.

"Working with Ian and Sean was a wonderful experience," says Olabisi. "They offered an insight into their characters, and they both developed them as their own."

Olabisi, whose full name is Olanrewaju Kolawole, drew from his own Nigerian heritage while creating the background for film, though he contends that the characters are based on "pieces of people" and not anyone in particular. Nevertheless, August the First comes off as a deeply personal and powerful story that spans familial as well as cultural ties. Having spent three and a half years in Madrid before living in New York, Olabasi champions the merits of a cross-cultural life.

"Only good can ever come of living in another country; not only do you learn to appreciate the beauty of other cultures, but you learn about the beauty within your own as well."

AUGUST THE FIRST: 9:30 p.m., March 28 @ Magnolia (and again at noon, March 31 @ AFC

By Chad Jones, Staff Writer