Words: Good Sport / Amsterdam Worldwide
Images: Ray Demski
Presented by Amsterdam Worldwide “Bukom” is a film directed by Ray Demski, with original music by Mo Kolours.
There is something particular about Bukom. Located on the outskirts of Ghana’s capital Accra, Bukom is one of those places where people live together in little crowded shacks made of tin and dirt. You would never guess this place is a legendary World Boxing Capital, home to 8 World Champions. Here every young kid “learns how to fight before they can even walk”, and all of them train and dream to become the next World Champ.
In Bukom, every gym is a home to the homeless, every coach a father to the fatherless, every empty street a school to refine their instincts. As director Ray Demski points out : “boxing metropoles from London to L.A. speak of Bukom with almost mystic reverence – D.K. Poison, Azumah Nelson, Nana Yaw Konadu, Ike Quartey, Alfred Kotey, Joseph Agbeko – are legends among fighters, their names synonyms for those who came from the bottom and fought themselves to the top.”
Each of these stories is proof of the fact that even though the millions of dollars go to the big names fighting in Las Vegas, the true heart of boxing is in Bukom. Beating from the dedication and love that inspire kids to change their lives, providing a purpose that resonates generation through generation.
Good Sport spoke with director Ray Demski on release of the film to gain more insight into his process in creating the film.
MORE THAN A NEIGHBORHOOD, A FAMILY
HOW A SLUM IN GHANA BECAME THE HOME OF 8 BOXING CHAMPIONS
GS: Where did the initial idea to create the film Bukom come from.
RD: I grew up sailing around the world, and during this time meeting and training with many different martial arts masters and coaches, and training in fighting sports including boxing. From several of the boxing coaches I trained with during these travels I heard stories that felt almost mythical of a place in Ghana from where World Champions came. My father who boxed in his youth had also heard stories of this place in Ghana and always mentioned it would be amazing to go there some day. When I was presented the opportunity to do a personal shoot by Nikon as one of their ambassadors, I knew I had to go to Bukom.
GS:What was your process in terms of getting the idea off the ground and into action.
RD: A lot of research had to be done to bring the project to life. I started by figuring out some details about the place and finding some facts behind the stories. Then by making contact with locals, gyms and boxers while figuring out all the logistical details to be able to make the project work. Several months of preparation time went into the project before we even set off to begin shooting.
GS: When creating the film, did much change during that creation process in terms of what the story was about and how it unfolded in front of the camera.
RD: I was pretty open to what the idea was, in going to Bukom I had no intention of pushing the story into any one box or preconceived idea I had of the place. It grew very organically from our time there and became so much more about the community itself then about just boxing or any one athlete.
GS: What was the process like working with Mo Kolors on the sound and score for the film.
RD: Working with Mo Kolors was an amazing! I just got in contact with him during the editing of the film on a recommendation of Daniel Peiron, Creative Director with our presenting partner Amsterdam Worldwide.
Mo Kolors joined me and my team in the studio in Munich for two days and we just brought the film to life with Music, it was really magic and he was absolutely the perfect fit for the film.
GS: There is a scene around 4.35 with the kids shadow on the wall. What was it like creating that part of the film, how did that come together.
RD: That moment was really spontaneous, I had arranged with the coach at Attoh Quarshie boxing gym for him and some of the kids to meet us early in the morning to shoot some training on the beach. The kids had arrived before the coach and while waiting, my second cameraman Jakob Schweighofer noticed the shadows of the ring in the morning sunlight and was picking up a shot. On seeing this I immediately asked one of the kids to step in the ring and do some shadow boxing, this led to a real “Shadow Boxing” shot, and on turning around the stunning shot of the kid in the ring backlit by the rising sun.
GS: When working on a project like this, something that is different to client work for example. What are you looking for and what are you looking to uncover/discover.
RD: A story like this is so personal and multidimensional, but I am also a guest. I try to just see and experience the essence of the place and the people, then do all I can to bring forward the spirit of the story and let it speak for itself.