From Africa to MIT
Arthur Musah chronicles the stories of five MIT students in One Day I Too Go Fly
One Day I Too Go Fly
Directed by Arthur Musah
Arthur Musah ’04, MEng ’05, who graduated from MIT in Course 6, left Ghana to come to the Institute in order to pursue a world-class education and engage in the global conversation. Like Musah, five students — Fidelis Chimombe, Mosa Issachar, Sante Nyambo, Billy Ndengeyingoma, and Philip Abel — left their respective home countries of Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Nigeria, and One Day I Too Go Fly aims to chronicle their four years at the Institute and how their identities are molded by their experiences.
Musah pursued engineering for four years before realizing that he wanted to go to film school. He was accepted into the prestigious film production program at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and was chosen as an Annenberg fellow. Now, Musah, like a true MIT student, is juggling several responsibilities; he’s got a job at a software company and is also doing a four-year film shoot. He follows the five students into their classes and labs and has given each his or her own personal camera to record themselves more frequently. The Tech interviewed Musah to learn more about the motivations behind the documentary.
The Tech: How did your personal experience influence you to make this documentary?
Arthur Musah: I’m at the point in my life where I’m thinking about how did I become this person or how did this piece of me come about. It seemed like going back to MIT and looking at how young Africans today are going through that journey might be a good way to explore some of those questions that I’ve been asking myself and then maybe make them a little more universal because there are other friends of mine who were also trying to figure out their place in the world and how did they get where they are, where do you go from here — so it’s all part of that investigation.
TT: Can you talk a little about the nature of leaving your home to come to America? What is the main goal in coming to America?
AM: Different people leave for different reasons but I think a lot of people who come to American universities from Ghana at least are hunting for the best education possible. They are people who are curious about the world. They want to know knowledge. I loved science; I loved learning about the world and my friends did as well, and we were very competitive about doing it. It seemed once we heard about American universities being these beacons, being the best in the world, and once we heard that there were ways to pay for that or to get help with paying for that, it became this goal that we were working towards. I think it’s just this desire to participate in whatever is happening on a global scale. A lot of the people that come to seek higher education out here as well see issues that can have an impact on in their communities. They see ways in which they can make their lives better, their families’ lives better, and then their communities as well. Part of this hunt for the best and latest knowledge out in the world is to not only plug yourself to this global community and where the world is going today but bring everybody including your country with you as well.
TT: What do you think the students want to eventually achieve by coming to MIT? Do you think they will have to find the balance between wanting success and wanting to help their families and countries? Do you think these students will struggle to balance trying to make money and trying to help people?
AM: Part of the journey here is to figure out how to reconcile those two desires. I think you know it makes sense that they want to be successful: you want to secure your future, your children’s future, your parent’s future you know you want to make life easier for them. You want to make them proud. But they’re also very conscious of the positions that they’re in that they can use to impact their communities or impact the world in general. I don’t think they’re there yet — because they’re at MIT and doing classes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — but once you graduate and you start working, you do deal a little with “how much do I live for myself?” and “how much do I live for my community?” That’s part of the reason I’m making this film. It’s part of investigating, “How did I become this person?” or “How are these students becoming these people?”
TT: This is definitely a coming-of-age story. Are you aiming for relatability? Because being an MIT student is a very small population and then being an international student from Africa is an even smaller population. Are you aiming more for shedding on light on their situation or for making this a story that people can relate to?
AM: Well my approach in this whole thing is really to stick to the intimate stories of these students – their experiences, their struggles, their victories. Those are the things that we connect to when a movie is successful or a book is successful. We want something very specific and maybe something exotic, but there is something fundamentally universal about being human that I think will come through. It was also important for it to be MIT because we are in a digital age; somehow MIT represented something that was more current and global. Even though it’s very specific, in some ways it was very universal and maybe also very intriguing. For all those reasons I thought it would be interesting to come back to MIT, but the plan really is to stick very closely with the students and their journeys.
TT: Anything else?
AM: We’re trying to get information out there. It’s a four-year project and we’re probably three years away from having the thing completed and actually screen anywhere or be available for viewing. But part of what I hope is that people will hear about it, respond to it sooner, and get in touch with us and make it a two-way conversation.
The project’s Kickstarter campaign will be open until December 19. Head over to the blogs at techblogs.mit.edu for the extended interview!