Who are these people in the film? The external dramatic tension and the internal ambitions of each character becomes apparent in each character’s storyline. Even though this is a documentary, I use these profiles to inform my directing approach taken for each person.
Alex Keller is painting fervidly. His furious strokes cover the canvas with blue and pink, in a portrait about a young Santomean mother caring for her baby.
Working alone in his studio at Casa Equador that has been a home for many Saotomean artists, Alex paints alone rarely talks to anyone.
While Alex may be among the most talented artists in Sao Tomé, he doesn’t necessarily sell much, saying he looks for people who respect his work and will take good care of the painting they buy. One day he might become as famous as the famously solitary Caspar David Friedrich.
Ronny Key is surrounded by colorful pieces of fabric about to become clothes. He’s talking about his inspirations in the fashion world abroad, far from Sao Tomé.
Ronny is a young designer who wants to put his island on the world map with his designs. He uses African fabrics in combination with European style dressmaking.
African fabrics are not that common in Sao Tomé and Ronny also wants to bring that color and texture back into fashion in his native land.
Working on the colorful attire of red, yellow, brown, a seamstress is pecking away with her sewing machine in the background. A mototaxi arrives and Ronny jumps on. He travels to Sao Joao Dos Angolares what according to him is the most peaceful place in the whole world and where hi gets his inspiration.
Olavo Amado is surrounded by his colorful paintings he calls the labyrinths of life. At the heart of the story is the gallery where he works, Teia D’Arte has been the heart of the community of Santomean artists.
Olavo makes strong statements because the labyrinths he paints are also the the story of life. Yes, why not give it try – do your best make your dreams come true. Life has it’s mysteries and challenges and labyrhints in his painting express those difficulties. This strong aspiration, when becoming an artist, is often the only thing you have. Discovery of one’s artistic capabilities is not enough, the backbone of you success in the art world will be your stamina and never giving up.
Olavo has studied art in Paris and traveled for a few to times to the Netherlands to study with other artists but always returns as his loves his island, and says that’s the best place for him.
Osvaldo Reis sits in the midst of tubes of acrylic color, telling me a story about his first experience with real paint at an art competition.
With a big table in front of him, wearing a simple blue shirt, he tells me about circles. Circle is the symbol of an island, and Osvaldo can feel the limitations around him. On a small island islolated by the sea, and limited options, has its entrepreneurs in the art world, expressing diverse ideas and creating multi-faceted artwork.
Osvaldo sells most of his paintings to tourists, as according to him Santomeans are not an appreciative market. For them, art and painting is something new, but he has hopes for the future.
Kwame Sousa recently finished a project in Brazil and is now going to India for 6 months to work with local artists.
Why is he in Sao Tomé? Kwame says Sao Tome has a special energy. No matter where he is, the islands remain the most important place for him.
He’s trying to shake off the image of an African painter, and create an individual brand that truly belongs to him.
The most important person for Kwame is his daughter.
Nelito Pereira stands with the bright sea behind him, talking about his challenges when starting out.
Nelito worked with his father, and also Nezo, an artist from Angolares, in sculpture, before striking out on his own.
People will look at your sculpture and go hmm… They try to make out what is it, each says something about what’s there, and that’s always fun.
Nelito reuses materials for art, and he’s out to prove that Africans too care about the environment. There are two faces to Africa. War, poverty, misery. But also culture, creativity, beauty.
René Tavares sits in white roof coffee shop in Tallinn and talk elatedly about his inspirations. He lives between Lisbon where he studies, and Sao Tomé where he feels his home is.
René believes Santomean art is a marriage between Africa and Europe. He likes to compare and contrast the role of women in Sao Tomé and other parts of the world, Europe, Asia. His work is a marriage between influences from Sao Tome & Europe.
René also like to combines painting with a special brand of theater from Sao Tomé, taking inspiration from Tchiloli, the french drama popular on the islands, and has just published a book with his paintings.
Kris Haamer (That’s me!)
When I was 12, I fell in love with the daugher of a banana saleswoman in the Dominican Republic. That experience lit a passion in me that led me to study Spanish in the outskirts of Salta, Argentina.
While in South America, I ended up for a whole summer in the North of Brazil, where I fell in love with the Portuguese language and the Samba music, and became a lusophile. So a few years later I decided to study in Portugal to actually learn the language. In Lisbon, through some friend and the Lusophone University I discovered Sao Tomé.
And decided to investigate the islands in detail for my university thesis, and spawned the idea for my first documentary, Tomé.
What will I make these characters look like on the screen? Continue reading my artistic vision.
– Kris Haamer