Sheila Na’imah Nortley first grabbed the world’s attention in 2009. Her neo-noir short film The Hydra had just dropped and it won ‘Best Film’ at the BFM Awards at the British Film Institute straight away.
The achievements of the London-based writer and producer didn’t stop there. Her next film – Zion – picked up ‘Best Film and Best Screenplay’ at the Spartan Lens Film Festival in Virginia. Then there was Illegal Activity, which received both critical acclaim and ‘Best Film and Best Director’ at ABBF in Miami.
It’s not just the films that have received such praise; Shelia herself has received recognition for her contribution to black youth achievement and received the ‘Aviva Women of The Future Award 2016 for Arts & Culture’.
Nortley doesn’t just want to shape characters behind the camera; the British filmmaker also plays key roles in her features Sable Fable and The Strangers. The film is set in a dystopian, post-WWIII world where online propaganda rules supreme generating moral panics, national fear and agenda-driven political campaigns. In this dark and ugly Orwellian reality, one man possesses the national secret that can change the UK’s path.
Shelia’s identity is deeply rooted in Africa, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that the cast of The Strangers is brimmed with BAME characters. But what is the reason that she chose an elaborate scaffolding of theological themes for her new feature? “I wanted to create a world that would make us question where we are heading,” she recently told the BBC. “What I found was that when a lot of the actors read the script they said, ‘This isn’t too far from reality’.”
What inspired her this time round? “Obviously, as you know, we have films like Equilibrium and The Matrix which have theological messages behind them,” she says. “So, I wanted to talk about race, religion, class.”
She added: “What I want people to get from this is the idea of inclusivity; that we can actually get on and we can co-exist happily together.” After taking six years to write, pre-production for the feature-length film kicked off a few months ago. And, like the rest of Shelia’s work, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be groundbreaking.
Featured image credit: #NupéVibes via YouTube