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These Kids Gave Famous Sci-fi Movies an African Twist

Ranging in age from 7 to 27, The Critics have become social media sensations in the West African country by using their mobile phones to create short films with visual effects, or VFX. Science fiction films are typically created with sophisticated software and high-tech equipment. But these young filmmakers — most of whom are siblings or cousins — prove that less is more, using everyday items at their disposal to shoot short films. Raymond Yusuff, 18, the group’s VFX artist and editor, says that in 2015 they taught themselves to make films and experiment with greenscreens — used to superimpose an image onto a different background — by reading Wikipedia and watching YouTube tutorials. Yusuff adds that at the time, The Critics did not have a camera to film their stories, so they used his Samsung smartphone. In 2016, the young filmmakers made their first film, “Redemption,” after saving up for a month to buy the green fabric needed to create their own greenscreens. The Critics have now morphed into a production company — The Critics Company — and have created more than 20 short films, often telling stories about robots, aliens and people with supernatural abilities. They keep their movies short because they don’t have adequate electricity and data plans to upload long films to the internet. Their productions take anywhere from one week to seven months to shoot, and everyone on the team has a designated role. In August 2019, the young filmmakers were contacted by American film executives including Franklin Leonard, Scott Myers, and J.J. Abrams — director of Hollywood blockbusters such as “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” — after one of their interview clips went viral.