Instagram film captures real-life story of enslaved boy

Film studio Stelo Stories and the DuSable Museum of African American History have released the trailer for the new vertical film ‘Equiano.Stories’, which is set to premier on 16 February exclusively to followers of @Equiano.Stories on Instagram. The film brings to life the memoir of Olaudah Equiano, who was kidnapped and enslaved as a young boy in West Africa in 1756. It 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. The first film, ‘Eva.Stories’, the diary of a teenage Holocaust victim re-told through Instagram, garnered 300m views within 48 hours of its release.

Followers of @Equiano.Stories will meet 11 year-old Equiano and watch his story unfold as he posts about 400 individual stories, totalling 80 minutes of content, over the first 48 hours of the film’s release. 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. 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 first-hand 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 of 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.”

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 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. The Stelo Stories Dance App will be in the Apple App Store from 16 February.