Award-winning film studio Stelo Stories and the DuSable Museum of African American History, the nation’s oldest independent museum of Black history, today announced the release of the trailer for the new vertical film titled “Equiano.Stories.” (Watch the trailer here.) Set to premiere Feb. 16 exclusively to followers of @Equiano.Stories on Instagram, the feature film brings to life the memoir of Olaudah Equiano, who was kidnapped and enslaved as a young boy in West Africa in 1756.
“Equiano.Stories” follows Stelo’s groundbreaking release of “Eva.Stories,” the diary of a teenage Holocaust victim re-told through Instagram that captured 300 million views within 48 hours of its release. “Equiano.Stories” is the second film in a series from Stelo that takes the stories of young people who documented their lives during extreme moments in history and connects them with their 21st century peers through social media.
Followers of @Equiano.Stories will meet 11 year-old Equiano and watch his story unfold as he posts about 400 individual stories, totaling 80 minutes of content, over the first 48 hours of the film’s release. Just like today’s Instagram influencers, Equiano will share moments of his day — from a carefree boy in his village with his loving family and rich culture, to the fear and confusion of being kidnapped, up to the harrowing experience of life aboard a slave ship.
“Equiano.Stories” is focused on Equiano’s childhood story to connect him with today’s youth. He went on to become an influential figure in history — after buying his freedom at about 20 years old, Equiano moved to London and later published his bestselling memoir in 1789. The firsthand account was critical in stopping the trading of enslaved people by England, the world’s biggest exporter of enslaved Africans at the time, and remains one of the era’s only first-hand accounts of life in Africa written by an African author.
“Stelo Stories shares historical stories with our audiences by meeting them where they already are – on their phones and on social,” said Stelo Stories executive and one of the creators of the film, Yvonne Chioma Mbanefo. “We created ‘Equiano.Stories’ to connect people with a new Black history narrative. The story starts with a vibrant young man who is not so unlike today’s youth – he loves dancing, running through his neighborhood and hanging out with his friends. For far too long, historical films have started the narrative of Black history with enslavement. ‘Equiano.Stories’ paints a vivid portrait of a history that starts with freedom.”
Stelo Stories partnered with the DuSable Museum of African American History, a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate, to bring Equiano’s story to life. DuSable also contributed deeper educational content to the film and has created a museum exhibit that takes visitors into Equiano’s village to experience the culture of West Africa, featuring pieces from its own permanent African collection previously unseen by the public.
“Our collaboration with Stelo Stories on ‘Equiano.Stories’ is important because it gives us a platform to remind the world that slavery is not our origin story as Black people,” said Perri Irmer, President and CEO, the DuSable Museum of African American History. “Equiano’s story speaks most eloquently and in a way that we believe will create a paradigm shift in how our history is presented, consumed and understood. This is exactly what the world needs right now: the truth, the whole truth, historically accurate and beautifully portrayed.”
Stelo Stories Dance App & Social Lessons on Insta to Launch with Premiere
Inspired by today’s viral dance videos, the film is launching with a mobile experience that invites people to learn the steps of the beautiful Nigerian dances seen in the film. The new how-to experience, available on the Stelo Stories Dance app, is the first AI-based mixed reality dance tutorial to accompany a film launch. The app’s virtual teacher, AI Dance Coach, uses cutting-edge mobile phone camera technology and artificial intelligence to teach viewers the steps. AI Dance Coach corrects dancers in real time based on their actual performance, showing them what they got wrong and how to fix their movements. Look for the Stelo Stories Dance App in the Apple App Store on Feb. 16.
Bite-sized lessons will also launch on Instagram with each of the film’s highlights. These short, visual bites unpack what viewers see in the film, both historically and culturally. The lessons were curated by scholars from The DuSable Museum, Howard University, Georgia State and Stelo Stories.
The “Equiano.Stories” Story
“Equiano.Stories” is based on the bestselling memoir by Olaudah Equiano that is one of the only first-hand accounts of life in West Africa written by an African author. The film re-imagines the first part of the book in a modernized format: Olaudah Equiano is an 11-year-old boy living in a vibrant Igbo village in West Africa in 1756. Deeply connected to his family and community, he documents his life in the village through stories shared with his followers. But one day, Equiano and his sister are kidnapped from their home. They are separated, and Equiano is transported alone, by foot, to Africa’s Western shore where he is made to board a slave ship…
Stelo Stories Brings Mobile-First Point of View to High Production Films
Stelo Stories is an award-winning film studio that creates vertical, scripted, high production value content that is meant to be viewed on mobile, because that’s where the audience is. Its first series tells the true stories of 10 incredible young people who documented their lives during extreme moments in history.
“These young people had a pen and paper to tell their stories. We give them a phone, social media, and other technologies to allow them to communicate directly with their 21st century peers,” says Maya Kochavi, Stelo co-founder and one of the film’s creators.
“Our films are shot as though the protagonist was holding the phone and filming their day to day life,” says Stelo co-founder and one of the film’s creators, Adi Kochavi. “In our new, autobiographical genre, the protagonist is aware of the viewers and is inviting them into their life, which creates a personal relationship between the character and the viewer.”
Stelo’s team consists of award-winning writers, artists, and philosophers – as well as AI, computer vision and Metaverse technology experts. Stelo aims to tell important and meaningful stories to its audiences by meeting them where they already are: on their phones and the newest technologies. Stelo was co-founded in 2020 by sisters Maya Kochavi and Adi Kochavi. For more, visit stelostories.com.
The Making of “Equiano.Stories”
“Equiano.Stories” is a multi-million-dollar production filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2019 with more than 400 cast and crew members. The set includes two main locations: a village built for the film and a reconstructed replica of a ship. The village and ship are handmade replicas based on research from academics and Equiano’s own account. Equiano’s story is set to music created by Kahil El‘Zabar and Stephane Legar.
The DuSable Museum to Open Equiano Exhibit
The DuSable Museum of African American History, a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate, is the nation’s first independent museum dedicated to the collection, preservation and study of the history and culture of Africans and Americans of African descent. To celebrate the African origin story in “Equiano.Stories,” the Chicago-based Museum will open an exhibit on Feb. 16 that brings to life Equiano’s village life and customs. Museum goers will step into a handcrafted replica of the thatched-roof huts seen in the film to be immersed in African works of art, sculpture, and photographs. These historical pieces that were curated from DuSable’s permanent collection are interwoven with interactive digital experiences, including vertical screens showing scenes from the film and social lessons shared in the Instagram experience. For more, visit www.dusablemuseum.org and follow @dusablemuseum.