Hard knocks, redemption, wealth, survival, risk, and donuts—Ted Ngoy’s life story has it all. It’s the American Dream, with a (glazed) twist.
At the elite MIT, four African students strive to graduate into agents of change for their home countries. But what changes come from living in two different worlds?
Born in Ukraine, raised in Ghana, and now living in America, Arthur Musah is drawn to stories of people shaped by multiple places. His 50-minute documentary Naija Beta, premiered in 2016 and played at festivals in Africa, Europe and the US. Naija Beta won the Roxbury International Film Festival’s Best Documentary Short and the Silicon Valley African Film Festival’s Achievement in Documentary awards, among others. Arthur studied filmmaking in the MFA program at the University of Southern California as an Annenberg Fellow. He also earned a bachelor’s and a master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to which he returned to film Brief Tender Light, his current project. Brief Tender Light won the 2020 PaleyDocPitch competition and has been supported by the DCTV Docu Work-In-Progress Lab, Cinephilia Bound, the Council for the Arts at MIT, and hundreds of individual backers on Kickstarter.
As undergraduate students at America’s premier technological university, a group of ambitious African students come of age, learning lessons in and beyond the classroom. They embarked on their MIT education with individual ambitions – to run a civil engineering company and be a shining example for girls in Tanzania; to secure a better life for family in northern Nigeria; to contribute to postgenocide reconstruction in Rwanda; to enter into politics and the fight for democracy in Zimbabwe. Their missions are distinct, but fueled by a common goal: to become agents of positive change back home.
Even as their dreams are anchored in the societies they have left, their daily realities are defined by America – by the immediate challenges in their MIT classrooms and the larger social issues confronting the world outside of those classrooms. Their new environment demands they adapt. Each is forced to refine their ideas about the world and about themselves, ultimately deciding how much of America to absorb, how much of Africa to hold on to, and how to transform youthful ideals into adult action.