Brief Tender Light directed by Arthur Musah
Brief Tender Light

Ghanaian filmmaker Arthur Musah’s new documentary Brief Tender Light, where he follows four African undergraduates through his alma mater MIT, will make its World Premiere at Newburyport Documentary Film Festival on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 3:15 p.m. at Firehouse Center for the Arts.

The students embark on their MIT education with individual ambitions – to engineer infrastructure in Tanzania; to secure a better life for 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,” said Musah. “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. 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? As a gay man, I also drew on my experience of turning away from my Ghana and towards America in search of freedom to inform the film.”

Watch the first trailer for Brief Tender Light.

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