Scen.: Ola Balogun. F.: Edison Batista. M.: Philippe Gosselet. Mus.: Remi Kabaka. Int.: Zózimo Bulbul (Babatunde), Jorge Coutinho (Oluyole), Sônia Santos (Elisa/Amanda), Lea Garcia (la sacerdotessa), Roberto Pirillo (commerciante di schiavi), Milton Villar (vecchio commerciante di schiavi). Prod.: Magnus Filmes, Jece Valadão, Afrocult Foundation. 35mm. D.: 95’. Col.
A deusa negra is certainly Ola’s best film, the most complete, and this can be attributed to several concurrent factors. First of all, it deals with a subject that was very close to him: the painful history of slave trade and of the massive displacement of a black African population. It is a film that goes beyond the local dimension to look at the wider topic of diaspora. The film also carries a mysterious and mystical side, which is very much in line with Ola’s sensitivity. Although he is a self-proclaimed agnostic, he was always very fascinated by the magic and mysticism that shines through some traditional doctrines, in particular cult-related. He is interested in exploring the gap between real and surreal, real and imagination, a world which is hardly ever translated into words, or cinematic images, a world to be entered in silence.
Moreover, he was away from his country for the first time and although he had a tiny budget, he could rely on a very experienced crew, professional actors, and had access to a laboratory, proper equipment and post-production facilities. A deusa negra was the first film made by an African filmmaker in Brazil. It might not seem relevant today, but in the 1970s that was still a heated question: although in Brazil melting pot was very common and all nuances of colour existed, it was also the country where pernicious segregation against black people persisted. A deusa negra was never distributed commercially outside of Nigeria, where it wasn’t particularly successful because it was an unusual film for Nigerian audiences. However, it was screened in all festivals interested in African cinema around the world.
Françoise Balogun, The Magic of Nigeria. On the Cinema of Ola Balogun, Filmkollektiv Frankfurt, 2016