The German King: The Art of Storytelling Exemplified Through The Young Stars Workshop
With all the success Angel Studios has experienced this year, it’s hard to imagine that even more great storytelling is yet to come. The upcoming series, The German King, resurrects a forgotten chapter in African history, chronicling a community's steadfast commitment to preserving its heritage. Rudolf Douala Manga Bell, an African prince raised in Germany, ascended to the throne of Cameroon amidst the tumultuous era of the Scramble for Africa. At its heart, the story delves into the life of an unsung hero long overdue for recognition. Combining the dramatic writing style of The Crown with the tenacious spirit of Braveheart, The German King is breaking new ground for African representation in ways never seen before.
The Young Stars Workshop: Bringing Untold Stories to Life
The German King team is going to great lengths to venture back to the roots of the story itself. Through the Young Stars Workshop, Adetokumboh “Ade” M'Cormack (Creator, Executive Producer, and Actor) and Chris Freeman (Producer) are working with aspiring filmmakers and actors in Kenya to make The German King come to life.
These young, inspiring filmmakers possess talent but need a platform to showcase it fully. Ade and Chris quickly found out that these filmmakers only needed an opportunity to learn. Participants were dispersed to learn everything from screenwriting to pitching a script to a film executive. A group of talented individuals, including The German King team and other experienced creatives, took their students through the steps and anticipated setbacks that any creative undergoes in their professional career.
In response to a question regarding the lessons taught in the workshop, Ade described some insights he shared with the participants after screening his short film.
“They got to see a different type of film. For them, it was the first time they’d seen an African hero in that way… a caliber of storytelling they’d never seen before. My advice to them was that yes, you want to be an actor, but you also need to learn how to be the master of your own destiny. Sometimes that means learning to be a writer, director, and producer.”
Adetokumboh “Ade” M'Cormack (Creator, Executive Producer, and Actor) teaching at the Young Stars Workshop
Ade confronted challenges in his career as an actor, director, and writer, grappling with a frequently overlooked problem in Hollywood—being handed roles fraught with stereotypes. This has been a frustrating and sadly overlooked cycle in the Hollywood circuit for some time for the Black community. Ade decided it was time to change the narrative. Coincidentally, the decision to metamorphose his frustration into something greater was sparked on the anniversary of Rudolf Douala Manga Bell's death, sparking the inception of The German King.
He continued by relaying a conversation he had with Dallas Jenkins, the director and creator of The Chosen, to the participants,
“In my conversation with Dallas, we talked about how the director is the immune system of a film or TV show and that they are responsible for making sure everyone on set is protecting each other and their respective art to protect the art itself.”
The great amount of professionalism these filmmakers possessed amidst limited opportunity deeply struck a chord with Ade and Chris. Within the first minutes of the workshop, Ade and Chris couldn’t believe the enthusiasm emanating from the group. Recognizing the need to keep pace with the participants’ infectious energy, the trainers at the workshop accelerated their learning approach. Throughout the workshop, filmmakers discovered the freedom to experiment with portraying new characters and narratives. One of the most beautiful outcomes of the workshop was the result of many participants desiring to create stories from their African heritage. This workshop was a stepping stone for these filmmakers to bring their untold stories to fruition–just as The German King intends to pursue.
Chris Freeman (Producer) with Young Star participants
Anticipating The German King's Impact
In anticipation of The German King's imminent impact, the series promises to spark conversations and movements around its source material. The life and tribulations of Rudolf Douala Manga Bell are poised to become topics of discussion. When asked how The German King team plans to navigate the potential challenges associated with respectfully representing characters and events, especially with African locals participating in the project, Ade responded,
“I think a lot of people need to understand the difference between a documentary and staying true, you know, to a story and then taking an artistic license. And because at the end of the day, we are storytellers… One of the most incredible things that has come out of The German King is that I've had the amazing opportunity to sit down with His Majesty King Jean-Yves Eboumbou Douala Manga Bell. He said I understand that this is a TV series. I understand that you're going to take license. But the most important thing I want you to do is create something that will inspire future generations. So everything that we do is from that perspective; it's how we can inspire Black children, women, and not just people of color, but everyone around the world.”
Naturally, as conversations about The German King unfold, Ade and Chris hope for action benefiting the Cameroonian people. Specifically, they aim to return Cameroonian artifacts rich in cultural and historical significance that are currently in Germany. Unfortunately, millions of Cameroonians lack the means to witness these items. Amid these challenges, The German King emerges as a catalyst for change. The values of the series align with the royal family's quest for an official apology from the German government to send back these artifacts to their rightful owners.
King Njoya sitting on the throne of his ancestors in Berlin
This cause extends to the recent renaming ceremony of Rudolf Douala Manga Bell’s plaque, which became a symbol of unity. German and Cameroonian communities sang in harmony—an ode to Rudolf's dream of a united, peaceful coexistence.
What’s Next for The German King
The success of the Young Stars workshop has set the stage for future workshop sessions, fostered a legacy of storytelling about African heroes, and inspired a new generation of filmmakers. In a world saturated with stories lacking authenticity, The German King stands as a beacon of change by challenging stereotypes and opening doors for those whose voices have long been ignored. As we eagerly await the premiere in 2024, the impact of this series will extend far beyond the screen, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of storytelling and cultural representation.