Arthur Musah’s film ‘Brief Tender Light’ explores youthful idealism

Ghanaian filmmaker, Arthur Musah follows four African undergraduates through MIT, America’s premier technological university and his alma mater in his new award-winning documentary ‘BRIEF TENDER LIGHT’.

The film documentary is a co-production of One Day I Too Go Fly Inc., American Documentary | POV, and
Independent Television Service with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

In the film documentary, Musah follows the four students as they embark on their MIT education with individual ambitions – to engineer infrastructure in Tanzania; to secure a better life for a family in Nigeria; to contribute to post-genocide reconstruction in Rwanda; to advance democracy in Zimbabwe. Their missions are distinct, but fueled by a common goal: to become agents of positive change back home.

While their dreams are anchored in the societies they have left, their daily realities are defined by America – by the immediate challenges in their MIT classrooms, and by the larger social issues confronting the world beyond those classrooms. Their new environment demands they adapt.

Over an intimate, nearly decade-long journey spanning two continents, students and filmmaker alike are forced to decide how much of America to absorb, how much of Africa to hold on to, and how to
reconcile teenage ideals with the truths they discover about the world and themselves.

“At its core, Brief Tender Light is about whether youthful idealism can survive the process of growing up. At the onset, I considered following African youths at different stages of college for a single year. As I developed the idea, it became clear that it would be more adequate that the project become a longitudinal documentary filmed over nearly a decade, in order to answer the questions that intrigued me” said Musah.

“How does time, and iterations of trying and failing on projects gradually transform one into an engineer? How does a new world become home? How does a Black African become aware of racism in America? How does one’s identity shift, and how do different people weigh living for their community’s
expectations versus their own desires?”

At World Premiere – Newburyport Documentary Film Festival 2023, the film won the Best First Time Filmmaker Jury Award. It was also selected for the West Coast Premiere – Tacoma Film Festival 2023, and the California Premiere – Newport Beach Film Festival 2023.

The film will make its Connecticut Premiere at NHdocs, The New Haven Documentary Film Festival on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 5:00 p.m. ET at New Haven Library in the Program Room. Director Arthur Musah will be in-person for a Q&A after the screening. For tickets, click here.

About Arthur Musah

Arthur Musah is a filmmaker from Ghana, born in Ukraine, and now living in the United States. His 50-minute Naija Beta (2016) played at festivals in the U.S., Africa and Europe, and won the Roxbury International Film Festival’s Best Documentary Short and the Silicon Valley African Film Festival’s Achievement in Documentary awards, among others.

Musah studied filmmaking in the M.F.A. program at the University of Southern California as an Annenberg Fellow. He also earned a bachelor’s and a master’s in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT, and worked as an engineer.

File Photo: Arthur Mansah

Brief Tender Light is his first feature. It secured co-productions from ITVS and American Documentary | POV, won the 2020 Paley Doc Pitch competition.

It has been supported by the DCTV Docu Work-In-Progress Lab, Cinephilia Bound, the California Film Institute’s DocLands DocPitch, the Hot Docs Forum, the Gotham Documentary Lab, and hundreds of backers on Kickstarter. Musah’s work has also been supported by the Sundance Institute.

About Co-Producer

Brook Sitgraves Turner is a graduate of UC-Berkeley and USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program. Raised in a multigenerational family of Black women, she’s focused on inclusive storytelling across many mediums: film, television, podcasts, and children’s books.

File Photo: Brook Sitgraves Turner

She has been a member of Film Independent’s Project Involve Fellowship, has produced documentaries and The New York Times-recognized podcasts, and has written on television shows for Fox, Paramount, and ABC. She also founded a health equity mutual aid organization that’s supported over 1,000
families in Los Angeles County.

Film credits

  • Arthur Musah – Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor, Writer
  • Sally Jo Fifer, Erika Dilday, Chris White – Executive Producers
  • Brook Sitgraves Turner – Co-Producer
  • Michael Kinomoto – Supervising Producer
  • Thomas G. Miller, ACE – Consulting Producer
  • Kelly Creedon – Editor, Writer
  • Keith Fulton – Editor
  • Brian Redondo – Editor
  • Ted Reichman – Composer
  • Nathaniel Krause – Colorist
  • Amy Reed – Sound Designer & Mixer

Source: News Agencies

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