Director of the award-winning short films Utopia, and Asa, A Beautiful Girl, Aimiende Negbenebor Sela, aka Aimi, is a descendant of Nigerian parents. She spent her childhood years in Nigerian, West Africa, and returned to her birthplace, New York City, in the late nineties.
After pursuing a career in the field of Information Technology for a number of years, and realizing that that wasn’t where her passion lay, she left the Tech world and turned to her true passion – writing and directing.
Aimiende has written and directed four short films, that played at various festivals around the world. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.
As a writer and a filmmaker, I am drawn to the inner conflicts that influence our actions as human beings. I observe people make decisions and watch their faces betray their uncertainties. I see good people do awful things; watch as victims decide to stop being victims, and I’m blown away by the inner strength that comes pouring out of them. In each case, I’ve wondered what it took to get them there.
I volunteered at a shelter in New York City for a while (before my move to Los Angeles), and the people I met (from those who have always had nothing, to people who lost everything in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, for instance) filled me with such appreciation for the human spirit. This, of course, is in addition to my experience growing up in a developing country. In light of more recent world events, I find myself thinking about those nights at the shelter and reaffirming my goal to bring a little bit of the hope I saw in the residents’ eyes to my work.
I do not see myself, however, as a crusader for a cause or social justice. I see myself as a filmmaker “with an eye for humanism,” quoting a fellow filmmaker’s observation of my work. There is nothing pretty about hurt, but the hope that shines through in spite of it is simply brilliant. That is what I aim to share in my work – hope. I draw visual inspiration from all that’s around me and from the filmmakers whose work I admire.
My goal as a writer-director is to, hopefully soon, join the list of writers and directors whose work I love, and to somehow give a voice to those (like me once upon a time) who feel voiceless; to play my own small part in bringing up the number of working women filmmakers in the industry, and share a bit of how I see the world in the process.
Re: Utopia —
I stumbled upon an article, a few years ago, that showed a photo of a protest in the South during the civil rights movement. In it, was a stunningly beautiful woman with Farah Fawcett-like blond locks in a white t-shirt and a pair of high waist bell bottom jeans. She was holding up a sign that read “you wish you were white.” A relatively political correct phrase compared to what other signs read, but it struck a nerve; and like Emma, in Barbara Taylor Bradford’s book Emma’s Secret, I pushed the story yearning to come out of me to the recesses of my mind and left it there, or at least I tried to.
I don’t know many people of African descent or heritage (maybe even none at all) who’d own up to wishing they were white. Frankly, I believe having the thought is taboo, but it’s there. Underneath the thick layers of extraordinarily complex emotions, beliefs, and pride, it’s there. That is the subject matter I’m attempting to tackle, in a very small way, in Utopia. The notion of the grass being greener on the other side, except, in this case, it’s literally impossible to go to the other side to experience it.
I want to tell this story because it deals with humanism – a topic that’s dear to my heart, because it’s a “what if” I deal with personally and believe others like me deal with even if they are unable to voice it, and because through the murkiness of “living” I truly believe it possible to find a way to simply love oneself.