The Rise of Filmmaker Akin Omotoso

From helming productions for Disney and Netflix to producing for Prime Video, the Nigerian director continues to build on his fervent desire to tell stories close to his heart.

While he was studying drama at the University of Cape Town during the mid-90s, Akin Omotoso realized he didn’t really like acting. He liked it enough, but he didn’t love it. “I was like, ‘I better find something else to do, because this is gonna be a problem.’” He enjoyed writing, like his father and sister (Kole and Yewanda Omotoso) who both became novelists, but didn’t have the patience to go that route. What he did love, he knew for sure, was telling stories. “The idea of being a filmmaker, a director, where you’re telling a story using different tools was very attractive to me.” So he borrowed the drama school’s VHS camera and took it to shoot basketball practice.

The Nigerian-born filmmaker came full circle when his Disney feature film about NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rise, debuted in June this year. Filming his basketball sessions all those years ago laid the foundation for his filmmaking career, which began in earnest after he graduated, when he continued to act but used the money he earned from it to fund his directing pursuits. His captivating dramas from God is African to Man on Ground and Vaya dealt with themes of migration, home and familial bonds; themes he’d go on to explore in Rise – his first major studio production. He may have been in the game for a while now, but Omotoso’s only just beginning to show us what he’s got.


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