Paul Eyam Nzie Okpokam, Elaine Featherstone, Lothario Lotho, Timothy Near, Ann Scofield, Jack Nance,
Truth is stranger than fiction in Bushman, the first feature film by David Schickele and a rare sort of film portrait—part document, part imagined poetic in its approach to real events. The year is 1968: Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, and Bobby Hutton are among the recent dead. In Nigeria, the Civil War is entering its second year, with no end in sight. In San Francisco, the adventures of Gabriel, a young Nigerian, reflect tribal, personal, and racial frictions during the tumultuous 1960s. Film curator and critic Albert Johnson wrote: “One is immediately struck by the exciting juxtaposition of African outlooks and California urban life. For the first time in American cinema, an educated African elucidates in a no-nonsense manner the bewildering ineptness of American society to live humanistically.”
Schickele’s bold use of nonprofessional actors in the film, combined with a semi-fictional narrative and rapportage, is nothing short of visionary. Shot in black-and-white photography, this poignant film is a powerful document of San Francisco during this tumultuous period, when the hippie counterculture and racial and social justice movements collided with law enforcement and conservative values. The shooting locations chosen for the film capture a city that no longer exists: large swaths of undeveloped land, a low skyline barely recognizable to a contemporary audience, and, most notably, the Fillmore District, a vibrant historically Black neighborhood before it was razed to make way for urban renewal.
Give Me a Riddle
David Schickele, United States, Nigeria, 1966
This is a documentary of Schickele’s experience as a member of the Peace Corps in Nigeria during a golden age full of hope and cultural ferment after the country’s independence in 1960 and before the Civil War in 1967. Schickele is welcomed as family by the villagers, including his university friends Paul Eyam Nzie Okpokam, Gabriel Ogar, and Manze Ejiogu.