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From Africa to MIT and Back Again

Naija Beta

May 19, 2017

MIT is well known for the prowess of its graduates in science and engineering—but not filmmaking. That may be changing with younger grads like Arthur Musah '04 MEng. '05. During his undergraduate career, Musah studied Course 6. While at MIT, his favorite class was Creative Writing; he always loved telling stories.He was born in Ukraine and raised in Ghana, and after graduation, he worked in engineering for four years at Texas Instruments in the semiconductor industry before going in a completely different direction by pursuing his passion for film. He was accepted into the Film Production graduate program at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, where he was an Annenberg Fellow

Inspired by his own story and those of many other students at MIT, he decided while in film school to create a documentary that followed African undergraduate MIT students. “MIT is such an iconic place and it affected the students in profound ways,” Musah said. “It seemed like the ideal place to set a story and document the kind of changes that can happen on a personal level.” One Day I Too Go Fly is the story of four students from Tanzania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria as they navigate through undergraduate studies at MIT. While filming, Musah came across another story that was too big to fit within the original documentary, and with this, he created Naija Beta.

This spinoff highlights Nigerian MIT students who bring technology to high school students in Nigeria through a summer robotics camp. The film was shown at MIT last month to appreciative audiences after a world tour of screening in fifteen different countries at film festivals and private showings. Along the way, the documentary has earned numerous awards, including:

  • Achievement In Documentary Film, Feature Length—Silicon Valley African Film Festival 2016
  • Best Documentary Feature Film—Urban Mediamakers Film Festival 2016
  • Best Documentary Short Film—Roxbury International Film Festival 2016
  • High Output Director Award—Arlington International Film Festival 2016

Naija Beta has also been featured in outlets such as CNN, Slice of MIT, and TRUE Africa. Musah aims to showcase the increasingly common experience of Africans being shaped by multiple places with large cultural disparities. He is interested in capturing the tension of being able to adapt to many places but never fully belong to any of them. Currently, One Day I Too Go Fly is in post-production and set for release later this year. With Naija Beta setting the precedent, the MIT Community is excited to see what comes next and is honored to have been a part of it.

For more information, visit the film's Kickstarter page.

Written by Brenna Morissey

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