AKONI, written, directed and produced by Australian Genna Chanelle Hayes, will have its world premiere at the upcoming CinefestOz. The film is the Festival’s Opening Night film at Augusta, WA, on Wednesday August 25.
Genna also stars in the film opposite British-born Nigerian actor Kit Esuruoso, Nigerian actress Jemima Osunde and Australian actors Mark Coles Smith, Pippa Grandison and Simon Elrahi.
The film is the story of homeless Nigerian refugee, Akoni, who struggles to integrate into Australian society after escaping the clutches of Boko Haram. While living on the streets and on the receiving end of racist taunts from a group of drunken men, a young woman Violet (played by Genna Chanelle Hayes) comes to his aid and offers him a place to stay. Struggling with her own heartbreak, she soon finds solace in her unlikely new companion as he opens her up to a world beyond her current life of modelling, parties and social media.
Genna shot the film in Sydney and in Ghana and, single-handedly, produced it across Australia, Ghana, Nigeria and the United Kingdom. An intrepid traveller since she was young, the story of the film reflects Genna’s commitment to human rights and her passion for learning different cultures.
“Currently, over three million Nigerians are displaced due to the activities of terrorist group Boko Haram, and almost half a million Nigerians – mostly children – have been killed. The Boko Conflict in West Africa is just one of many violent conflicts destabilising nations around the world, and as the number of internationally displaced peoples soars toward 100 million, it is my hope that the story of AKONI can enhance global understanding of the circumstances refugees and asylum seekers face, and contribute to the creation of global immigration policies that uphold the human rights of all peoples,” Genna says.
“I am very proud to present our World Premiere at the opening night of CinefestOz in Augusta.”
Raised on a sheep farm in country Victoria, Genna’s first foray into the outside world landed her in the deep southern states of the USA as a high school student. After graduating from the University Of Queensland where she mixed human rights with acting, journalism and mathematics, Genna travelled extensively – lugging her backpack across six continents and 60 plus countries. Since returning to Australia and focusing on filmmaking, her short films have screened internationally at schools and festivals, including the 68th and 69th Cannes Film Festival (Wurinyan, Displaced, Surviving Bug). AKONI is her feature film directorial debut.
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