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Latest Wexner film makes its way from across the Atlantic

Swedish film “While We Live,” directed by African filmmaker Dani Kouyate, will be screened at the Wexner Center for the Arts on Tuesday. Credit: Courtesy of the Swedish Film Institute

Award-winning African filmmaker Dani Kouyate will screen his Swedish film, “While We Live,” at the Wexner Center for the Arts Tuesday.

Since releasing his film in October of last year, Kouyate has been shopping “While We Live,” whose Swedish title and translation is “Medan vi Lever,” throughout the film festival circuit, and he finally decided to bring it to Ohio State for more exposure.

“While We Live” tells the story of a Gambian woman who moves back to Gambia with her son, an aspiring hip-hop artist, after living in Sweden for 30 years. However, her home country has changed in her absence, leading the pair to question their sense of identity and home, according to a summary of the film on the Wexner Center’s website.

With his film, Kouyate wants students and the local community alike to go into the screening with open minds and many questions.

“The main theme of the film is identity and it’s something people construct every day of their lives,” Kouyate said. “People should come in with questions in mind about who we are and where we are going in our lives.”

“While We Live” is classified as a coming-of-age comedy, but in reality, Kouyate said that isn’t entirely accurate.

“It’s a drama in every classical sense of the word,” Kouyate said. “Most importantly, it’s a drama that narrates the life and struggles of a family and how they overcome them.”

The film, a lot of which was shot and funded by the country of Sweden, was released overseas almost a year ago.

“There is [English dialogue] in the film, but it’s predominantly spoken in Swedish,” said Ryan Skinner, an author and Ohio State professor of music and African American and African studies. “It’s a state-sponsored film; it had state funding, regional funding, and it was an international effort to produce a large portion of the film.”

Even though most of the film is spoken in Swedish, Kouyate explained that the universal theme of shifting identities will transcend the language barrier and resonate with all types of audiences.

“I would describe the film as a story about roots,” Kouyate said. “[These roots] determine where we come from and where we are going in our lives; and it’s really important to remember that, no matter where we are in life.”

Not only was it a collaborative effort getting the movie made overseas, but Skinner said Ohio State departments and colleges had a part in ensuring free admission price, which was made possible by multiple Ohio State departments and colleges.

“Many people have taken notice, and we’ve gotten tremendous support,” Skinner said. “This event has been supported by the office of International Affairs, the department of Germanic languages, the department of French and Italian, the school of music, and, of course, the department of African American and African studies – with all these communities, we’ve seen a really good cross section of support.”

The screening takes place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Wexner Center for the Arts, and admission is free for all.

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