Visiting Filmmakers Series: Akin Omotoso with Rise

Friday, March 3, 2023 4:30 PM EST
Johnson Center, Cinema

Based on the real-life story of the first trio of brothers to become NBA champions, RISE follows the saga of the Antetokounmpos. 

After emigrating to Greece from Nigeria, Vera and Charles Antetokounmpo struggle to survive and provide for their five children, while living under the daily threat of deportation. Hoping to obtain Greek citizenship but undermined by difficult systems, the family maintains a hopeful vision, determination, and faith.

"So often," writes Amaride Tinubu on, "Disney films smooth over some of the uglier bits that plague human society. However, in showcasing Charles and Vera's journey from Lagos to Istanbul and eventually Athens, award-winning Nigerian film director Akin Omotoso refuses to shy away from the racism, xenophobia, humiliation, and everything else the two encounter. Yet, he never dwells on these dark aspects of the narrative—this story is about family bonds and the determination to see a nearly impossible future."

"Omotoso keeps Giannis’s plucky vigor front and center and directs the film with a warm, earnest wholesomeness that perfectly suits the disposition of its charismatic subject, writes Calum Marsh in the New York Times. "It’s not simply a movie about how Giannis became one of the most dominant players in the league. It’s about why Giannis is so lovable."

Photo: Getty/Paras Griffin

Akin Omotoso is a writer, actor, and director. He was born in 1974 in Nigeria and grew up in the university town of Ife, where he found his first love, writing. In 1992, his family moved to South Africa after his father accepted a lectureship at the University of the Western Cape. Omotoso enrolled in the Performers Diploma in Speech and Drama. He was cast in Sunjata, and won the Fleur du Cap Award for Most Promising Student in 1995.

His first feature film, God is African premiered in 2003; following, he started a production company, T.O.M Pictures, with Robbie Thorpe and Kgomotso Matsunyane. Omotoso and his production company went on to win Best South African Film at the New York Independent Film Festival in 2004. He played General Solomon in 2005's Lord of War, and also co-starred in 2006's Blood Diamond.

Omotoso directed the television series Jacob's Cross between 2007 and 2013. In 2010, he began working on Tell Me Sweet Something, which was influenced by Theodore Witchers′ Love Jones (1997). The film earned him a best director award at the 2016 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards in Lagos State. His 2016 film, Vaya, first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016 to critical praise and continued to make its rounds around the festival circuit and earned him the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Director before landing at Ava DuVernay’s Array.

In The Colour of Wine (2018), Omotoso traces the 300-year history of winemaking in South Africa, with a focus on post-apartheid challenges and the growing numbers of black winemakers, who previously excluded, are now making superior, internationally acclaimed wines. He directed the six-part Nigerian drama, The Brave Ones, for Netflix. And in 2022, Omotoso directed Rise for Disney.

Watch Akin Omotoso with Trevor Noah

Read: "The rise and rise of Akin Omotoso." 

Read: "How Akin Omotoso made a Disney movie out of a Nigerian story."

This event is presented by Visiting Filmmakers Series; College of Humanities and Social Sciences; College of Visual and Performing Arts; Film at Mason; English Department; Global AffairsHistory and Art History; Sport and American Culture; University Life; and Women and Gender Studies.

#VisitingFilmmakersSeries #FilmAtMason #Rise 

For more information: 

Anjuli Singh,, Exhibitions and Office Coordinator, Film at Mason

Cynthia Fuchs, Director, Visiting Filmmakers Series at Mason; Director, Film at Mason

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