The Mill Valley Film Festival has named Ellie Foumbi as the winner of the 2022 Mind The Gap (MTG) Creation Prize of $10,000. The MTG prize spotlights up-and-coming filmmakers who exhibit both “creativity of vision and exceptional use of the film medium,” as described by a press release announcing the news. All first- or second-time filmmakers screening their narrative or documentary feature at the Mill Valley Film Fest were eligible for consideration for the Creation Prize. Foumbi’s feature was one of 11 titles in the running.
“Ellie’s clear vision, graceful narrative choices, and deft aesthetic choices shone through in every frame and revealed a filmmaker who is in total command of her craft,” the fest emphasized. “Her willingness to explore such challenging subject matter with dignity makes her a vital new voice in contemporary cinema.”
Director, writer, and actor Foumbi made her directorial debut with “Our Father, Our Devil” (“Mon père, le diable”), which she also wrote. The film follows an African refugee living in the idyllic south of France who is suddenly reunited with the warlord-turned-priest who murdered her family. Mill Valley described the thriller, which premiered at the Venice Film Fest, as a “morally sophisticated exploration of trauma, revenge, and redemption like never seen before. From start to finish, the film subverts expectations and boldly challenges audiences to see the full humanity of a woman who faces the darkness from her past and the pain it has manifested in her.”
“Our Father, Our Devil” took home the Best Narrative Feature at the American Black Film Fest and the Audience Award at the 2022 Tribeca Film Fest, among other honors.
“All three finalists for the Creation Prize, Ellie Foumbi, Nikyatu Jusu [“Nanny”], and Morrisa Maltz [“The Unknown Country”], give me great faith in what may be shaping up to be an extraordinary generation of filmmakers,” said Zoe Elton, Mill Valley Film Festival and Mind The Gap Director of Programming. “Each of them has engaged with cinema and storytelling in ways that are committed, aesthetically compelling, politically astute.” She added, “I feel so inspired by these full-hearted artists and congratulate each of them on their work and their nominations.”
Established by the California Film Institute, MTG describes itself as a platform “committed to challenging prevailing industry narratives regarding women, BIPOCs, queer people, and people with disabilities.”
Foumbi has directing credits in TV and music videos, including an episode for “Tales,” a BET anthology series inspired by past and current hip-hop songs, and the music video for Durand Jones & The Indications’ “Morning in America.” She recently appeared in “Paris is in Harlem,” Christina Kallas’ film about a shooting in a historical jazz bar in Harlem. Foumbi starred and directed her 2017 short “Zenith,” a portrait of an adopted Black Mennonite woman wrestling with a desire to explore the world beyond her faith.