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|The Star Maker: Budding Liberian Filmmaker Putting Lollywood on the Map||| Print ||
|Written by J. Ralph Lincoln, 0886560729, Entertainment Writer|
|Sunday, 11 August 2013 21:17|
Monrovia - If only success was determined by the size and outward appearance of an individual, Bryant J. Slah, Jr. and the likes wouldn’t have come this far in what they believe and cherish the most. Indubitably as the saying goes: “you don’t judge a book by its cover.”
He may not be cruising around town in the most expensive car or his height may not be as that of average individuals graded with great potentials, but it cannot be denied or overemphasized that Bryant J. Slah, Jr., is the best amongst movie writers and Directors ever berthed in the Republic of Liberia.
From the crowded refugee camps of Buduburam in Accra, Ghana to the developing city of Monrovia, Liberia where he presently resides, this inspiring writer and movie director has undoubtedly contributed to the success of the growing Liberian film industry and the country’s movie practitioners who are currently making headways outside this sweet land of Liberty.
A few of the movies Bryant Slah has directed in Liberia - His first project in Ghana, as a Movie Director was the movie titled: “When Love Fails.” It was in this highly rated film that he introduced a face that most Liberian films viewers’ eyes are still fixed upon with hopes of replicating what his fellow countryman-Gregory Artus Frank has carved out for himself; Joseph C. Weah, Jr., currently the face of one of Liberia’s GSM giants-Cellcom Communications, Inc.
But this was not the starting point of Bryant’s career in filmmaking as he firstly began his journey as a lowly actor. But as the years went by and with highly valued motivation from his cousin-Roosevelt Toh who presently resides in the United States of America and J. Karfee Panto, who at that time served as his director, Bryant realized that his calling was not limited to acting: “These two individuals highly motivated me and prepared me for what I am today.”
After achieving training in Authorship backed with his first directorial experience, he decided to return home to contribute to the struggling industry of this post-war country. His decision didn’t seem a good one, especially in the eyes of his father and other supporters.
This was a choice Bryant will never easily forget: “When the decision was made to come back home, that is where my father who happens to be my source of morals and income frowned at me.”
Despite these discouraging challenges, The Giant, as he is fondly referred to because of his brilliant skills, was convinced that “it was good to use our gifts to build our country.”
His arrival in Liberia in 2006 was a frustrating and disappointing moment in his life sketch, one that he undoubtedly will never forget. It was at a time when the Liberian movie industry had nothing to offer and everyone was doing whatever they thought was the best. At this point, for someone with vast outside experience to break though the clutters of despotism and nepotism, you must have the nerve.
But the tables suddenly turned as help was soon on the way from another Liberian entertainer: “At this point,” says this inspiring writer and director, “I will never forget Jamila Koussa.” This talented producer, actress and star singer was the rescuer the good Lord sent to salvage the perishing hopes The Giant.
On a very high note, he said: “I thank God for Jamila Koussa who saw in me the greatness that others in the film industry probably ignored. Though she didn’t personally know me, but entrusted me with her money and her projects. This is why wherever I am, when she calls, I must abandon everything and respond.”
Kick-starting his career in the Liberian film industry was a hard journey for him as “Lots of people ignored and doubted what I had to offer until I delivered a lecture at Camp Lollywood, a program that brings together movie practitioners for training and refreshment. Then they started convincing themselves that yeah, this boy has something to offer.”
With Jamila Koussa under the banner of J & K investment, Bryant Directed his first project in Liberia titled “Prejudice.” This film again featured Joseph C. Weah, Jr. alongside other newly discovered movie stars like Gbalee B. Wesseh and Sylvanus M. Turay-President Emeritus of the Liberia Movie Union. From “Prejudice,” Bryant directed his second movie with Jamila entitled “A Man’s Heart.” This highly publicized motion picture again featured Joseph C. Weah, Jr., highly rated Liberian film icon Artus Frank and Sylvanus Turay.
It was at this juncture that Oasis Vision, then the leading production house in Liberia, came knocking at Bryant’s doors and he promptly answered their call to serve as their head of production.
At Oasis, he wrote and directed few films that didn’t make their way to the silver screen. Yet, his directorial skills packaged “The Trust,” a movie whose executive producer was Actress Selassie Mends-Cole under the banner of The Selassie Motion Picture, with Joseph Weah, Jr. serving as its producer.
Afterwards, he worked with producer Serena Klawah in “Golden Moment” which featured Joseph Weah and Tamia Morris. Then came orator Varfee Holmes who asked Slah to direct “Lines of Deception.” This highly acclaimed film also featured Joseph C. Weah, Jr., Josephus Tolbert, Tamia Morris, Paul Wieh, Alex Divine, and an array of Liberian actors.
It was from that point that he leapt forward to the famous 2 Rich Productions where the scope of his career has enlarged. At 2 Rich, Bryant wrote and directed numerous films, most of which has hit the markets as many are still in productions stages.
He wrote and directed the famous “Tokpa Likes Me,” starring Joseph C. Weah, Jr., the most talked about Antoinette Doe, Beatrice Mulbah and Magnus Brooks amongst others. It was a movie that raised lots of controversies upon its release.
He then wrote and directed “Foolish In Love” which featured Gregory Artus Frank, Georgia Holder and Beatrice Mulbah after which he wrote and directed “Touch My Body” and also featured Artus Frank, Korto Davies, Josephus Tolbert and Richard Dwumoh amongst a countless host.
With the same cast from Touch my body he wrote and directed “Hidden Secret,” adding Tamia Morris and Sylvanus Turay to the cast’s list. Then, he added “Ghost in Love,” to profile.
At this juncture, the career fame of Slah, Jr. had spread like wildfire. Hollywood now came calling for his expertise.
His first Hollywood job was with Producer Tibelrosa Tarponweh who did two films with Bryant: “Within,” and “Fingers,” starring Joseph C. Weah, Jr., Hardin Whitnies, Beatrice Mulbah, Jamila Koussa, Youjay Sunnyway and others.
The Giant is not limited to just writing and directing as he decided to produce a movie of his own. This led to the filming of “Charles,” a motion picture that has won so much acclamation.
In this one, he starred Joseph C. Weah, Jr., Youjay Sunnyway, Hardin Whitnies, Alex Divine and a new unearthed face-Memuna Sheriff,” who was featured in Liberian musician David Mell’s hit music video “Carry Your Load.”
Hollywood then came calling again with the movie titled “Out of My Hands.”
Through these movies Bryant has managed to unearth numerous names and that are making headways on the international movie scene. But it is sad to note that most of them have refused to look back at a man who first discovered their talents and gave them the chance to exhibit their gifts. But this has not perturbed the star maker, as he sees it as a gift from God to help his fellow countrymen get to the top and gain exposure.
“Sadly,” he said smiling, “the ego of a man will actually make him to look at his master.”
As I pen these words, The Giant is proving his star making nature at the ongoing Liberia Movie Star 2013 competition (the Dream House Reality Show) where he has groomed 15 individuals from Liberia’s 15 counties who are ripe and ready to take the country’s movie industry by storm. But it seems that making a star is a lot harder than you ever though.