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Author: Presh Williams

Big Picture Film Club Co-Founder.
News

Short Film | Third Act

March 31, 2019
Third Act | Short Film

Layered in hidden messages, the story begins on three friends as they embark on a new venture in podcasting. A humble setting for conversation quickly yields tension-filled exchanges between the friends, opening a sequence of events that reveal secrets in their respective relationships.

Starring: Ashley Bannerman (The Infiltrator, Turn Up Charlie); Gia Ré (Eli); Michael Akinsulire (Killing Eve); Stephanie Levi-John (The Spanish Princess); CJ Beckford (Victoria).

Story: Olan Collardy and Leon Mayne
Writer / Director: Leon Mayne
Producer: Charlotte Toon

Watch the “Third Act” via the link below.

Reviews

Rachael RnR Reviews Jordan Peele’s “Us”

March 30, 2019
Us Review Rachael RnR

Written & directed by Jordan Peele, YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the blockbuster horror “Us”.

What’s it about?

Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that her past will catch up to her. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival.

“Us” is currently available to watch in cinemas.

Editorials

The Rise Of Nigerian-British Filmmakers

March 26, 2019
Tomisin Adepeju, Candice Onyeama & Adeyemi Michael

A cold winter evening

On the 17th December 2018, London-based writer / director, Tomisin Adepeju held a screening event which may very well act as a catalyst for a new movement: the rise of Nigerian-British Filmmakers.

The event featured screenings from fellow Nigerian-British filmmakers, Candace Oneyeama & Adeyemi Michael. Following the screening, there was a rich and vibrant discussion on issues related to cultural identity in filmmaking, film funding and connecting with audiences, specifically among the Nigerian & African diaspora communities in the UK.

Comedian, Sir Lenny Henry recently brought a petition to the Prime Minister regarding the lack of ethnic minority inclusion within UK TV (specifically in the writing and production process). He cited that “only 2% of UK television is made by directors from BAME backgrounds” (despite making up 13% of the UK population in the 2011 census). Similarly, ethnic minorities’ employment in the film production sector currently stands at 3%. Will this new wave of Nigerian-British filmmakers help change this around?

We spoke with Tomisin Adepeju and Candice Onyeama within this emerging movement to see what the future holds for Nigerian-British filmmakers.

Tomisin Adepeju

Writer / Director Tomisin Adepeju (Elia Bianchi)

Presh [BPFC]: What is the inspiration behind putting together the event “Re-imagining Nigerian-British Cinema”? What did you feel you got out of the event?

Tomisin: I have been thinking about putting together an event like this for a long time. My own personal growth and development as a filmmaker coupled with my discovery of brilliant work by talented filmmakers like Adeyemi Michael, Shola Amoo, Destiny Ekaragha, Joseph A. Adesunloye, Bola Agbaje, Akinola Davis Jnr (aka Crack Stevens) Candace Onyeama, William Boyd and so many others, undoubtedly confirmed that there was a profound movement that ties all of us together. My primary motivation for putting on the event was to really highlight what I feel is one of the most exciting, cinematic movement that is currently happening in this country. Since graduating from film school three years ago, I discovered that there was a growing crop of filmmakers telling stories that were very similar to the work I was doing, the films they made were directly influenced by their culture, roots and identity as Nigerian-British individuals. The movement is culturally specific but within that exists a broad range of bold, diverse stories that beautifully captures and reflects the Nigerian, Diasporic experience.

Both your short films “Appreciation” & “The Good Son” are culturally-specific in how they deal with aspects of community/family life of the Nigerian diaspora within the UK. How has this approach been received by the diaspora community? And has this response been different to the wider mainstream audience?

Tomisin: I have been incredibly humbled by the reaction of my work by the Nigerian Diaspora community, the response and feedback has been positive. I have really tried to create work that speaks directly to that specific cultural experience. Also, the fact that audiences have reacted so positively has really justified the type of stories I’m telling. It’s wonderful to know that there is an audience that want to see more films that acutely explores the lives of Nigerians in the diaspora; films that feature characters boldly speaking the languages; Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa. Regarding the response of the wider mainstream audiences, I always utilise the work of one of my cinematic heroes; Yasujiro Ozu as a reference point, his work has been widely celebrated and praised by critics and audiences. He made films that beautifully captured the nuances of his culture and roots, his work celebrated Japanese culture and its way of life, his stories transcended race and are incredibly relatable. Thus, I feel that if the wider, mainstream audience can relate to Ozu’s stories, they can equally relate to the stories I am telling. One that a viewer can relate to regardless of their culture and background, just like Ozu, I want to tell human stories.

Is there a feature film in the works? What do you have planned for the future?

Tomisin: Yes there is, I am currently prepping my debut feature film which I am planning to shoot this summer, its an adaptation of my short, The Good Son (Omo Daada), I am very excited about realising that project. I am also developing several TV projects as well, one of them is a period drama that follows a young middle class Nigerian man who moves from Lagos to London in 1867.

Candice Onyeama

Writer / Director Candice Onyeama

Presh [BPFC]: Within the U.K we’ve seen Afrobeats music have some mainstream crossover success, however, films & TV programmes exploring British-Nigerian life haven’t been explored in any great depth, why do you think this is?

It’s difficult to pin it down on a single cause but there is a shortage of mainstream films and tv programmes exploring black lives in general in Britain. Also, black screen representation that we do find tends to be monolithic rather than reflective of the rich diversity of African diasporic cultures that make up Britain today. So Nigerian-British, Ghanaian-British, Somalian-British and a host of other African diasporan experiences don’t get the on-screen exploration they deserve. However, the short film and indie landscape is different, with Nigerian-British and African descent filmmakers pushing to get our stories out there with whatever resources we have. We’re taking ownership and telling our own authentic stories of African diasporic Britain and getting it out to audiences through festivals, online, our own curated events, basically in any way that we can and there is an audience for it. So if the mainstream British film and TV industry is really interested in diversifying our screens and catering fora large and ever-growing section of their audience, they’ll have to catch up soon.

In your short film “Once An Old Lady Sat On My Chest” you made an important decision to use a mix of both English and Igbo. What effect does that have on the tone of the film?

In all my films so far including my first film HUSH, I incorporate both Igbo and English. Most diasporans can relate to the feeling of living between two or more cultures not just physically but also linguistically. We often talk about ‘code-switching’, using our accents or languages to navigate different social and cultural spaces, with a lot of us having the ‘home’ language or accent we use with our families. As the protagonists in both my films are Nigerian-British, it was important for me to bring audiences, not just visually but aurally, into their diasporic worlds.

Once An Old Lady Sat On My Chest (Trailer)

Are there aspects of the Nollywood film industry that British-Nigerians (and British-Africans) as a whole can learn from to improve how those stories are told and released?

Absolutely! I’ve got a lot of admiration for the hustle, boldness and beautiful audacity of Nollywood. Its pioneers are visionaries who were self-taught and with very little resources, managed to transform their dreams to a multi-billion dollar industry. I think that entrepreneurial spirit and daring to think outside the box, without constantly seeking the validation of the industry is something we can definitely learn from in the diaspora. Moaning less would be great too, but I think unfortunately we’re still a bit too British for that.

Another thing about the Nollywood industry is that it unapologetically speaks to its own demographic  – Nigerians – and it works. We need to learn as diaspora filmmakers to start making works that can cater to diaspora audiences rather than fretting about the ‘outside gaze’ and falsely believing our experiences may be too niche to be understood. I’m not from the American West and have never experienced a rodeo but I can tell you what it is from all the Hollywood films I’ve watched – strong human stories will always resonate universally no matter who the community is. I also believe that we are very fortunate as diaspora filmmakers to be able to access two cultures and two separate film industries, so let’s use it.

Making moves

Director, Destiny Ekaragha has also served as a trailblazer for this movement, she’s only the third black woman to have directed a feature-length film that was given theatrical distribution in the UK. This was for her 2014 British-Nigerian comedy Gone Too Far.

Filmmaker, Adeyemi Michael has found recent success with his short film Entitled, which was commissioned by Channel 4. The London-based filmmaker has most recently held an exhibiton screening of his film in Lagos, Nigeria. Highlighting what can be achieved by having access to both Nigerian and UK audiences.

Entitled by Adeyemi Michael (E4 Random Acts, YouTube)

Shola Amoo released his debut feature A Moving Image in 2016. Shola’s second feature film The Last Tree, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, has already been picked up by Picturehouse and will be released later this year. The film is a coming of age drama following a British boy of Nigerian heritage as he moves to London.

Whilst there is still a long way to go to in truly breaking through the “glass ceiling”, this crop of Nigerian-British filmmakers are a welcome sign of the positive change that’s happening within the UK film industry.

Moving forward…

As part of its global expansion, Netflix is investing in both original programming and internet infrastructure in Africa. And with Nigeria’s Nollywood being the second largest film industry by volume (3rd by revenue), it seems likely that they’ll be an increasing demand for filmmakers who can appeal directly to the burgeoning Nigerian and Pan-African film markets, but also whose work can tap into the African diaspora both in North America and Europe. This means this movement of Nigerian-British filmmakers are in a position to potentially take advantage of upcoming changes in the Streaming Video On Demand (SVOD) sector. Particularly with the emergence of Disney+ & Apple TV+ streaming platforms companies will need to become more inclusive in their programming to remain competitive.

Interviews

Flatshare: The Comedy Drama Web Series For Generation Rent

March 10, 2019
Flatshare - Web Series - Main Cast

Flatshare is a new comedy-drama series by James Barber. Brought to life by the award-winning director, Grant Taylor. It’s an LGBT series that follows the trials and tribulations of four housemates living in Peckham, exploring issues such as sexuality, gentrification and identity. The show features some of the brightest emerging acting talents in the UK including Shaun Cowlishaw (Fools Gold), Andrew Rowe (Great Expectations), Ani Nelson (Brothers With No Game) & Nic Bernasconi (The Man from U.N.C.L.E).

We spoke to James Barber, Flatshare’s writer and creator, to talk about how the web series came about and what we can expect from it.

Presh (Big Picture Film Club): The series deals with multiple themes, from gentrification, sexual identity, class and ethnicity. How have you juggled these different elements in the show’s creation to give each of those issues enough space and time to be addressed?

James Barber (Writer & Creator): It definitely was a challenge exploring all of these themes in just 4 episodes. As a black gay man, I wanted to create a show which was about people who live between the intersections of different identities, the challenges that come with this as well as our ability to thrive within these intersections.

How much of your own personal journey is in these characters?

JB: Writing Flatshare for me was definitely a way of making sense of my own personal journey. It’s so rare that I see people who look like me, who are messy, complicated and flawed on screen. And with Flatshare, I wanted to create a space in which I could exist in my fullness.

James Barber (Flatshare creator)
James Barber (Flatshare Web Series Creator)

We have seen in recent years an increase in more filmmakers choosing to directly distribute their web series’ digitally, on platforms like Youtube, rather than first pitching to a TV network. How did you weigh up the pros of having full creative control over developing the series, versus the cons of not having the resources of a TV network behind you?

JB: I pitched the script to a few production companies who expressed some interest but chose to sit on the fence. For me, the most important thing was getting it made at any cost. As the executive producer, I had lots of creative control, which enabled me to make the show how I wanted to make it without compromise. It took over two years to make due to not having all of the resources I needed, but I was still able to make a show that looks better than some of the things I see on TV.

You successfully crowdfunded to allow you to produce the series. How was the response to the campaign? Despite setbacks in other areas of creating the show, did that give you confidence that people believed in this series?

JB: The campaign did well because I used it as a platform to share the personal reasons why I wanted to make the show which resonated with people. Running the campaign, as hard it was, taught me that what people connect with is a human story which at its core is universal.

Comedian, Lenny Henry recently delivered a petition to parliament calling for a greater number of BAME (Black & Minority Ethnic) writers, producers, directors in UK television, given how underrepresented those groups are within TV production. What barriers would the industry need to overcome to allow for better representation of black writers, producers and directors on TV?

JB: I commend Lenny Henry for raising this issue, because all too often, the focus is on-screen representation, which in my opinion is just window-dressing. I personally would like to see the UK adopt something like the ‘Inclusion Rider’ policy to fully commit to ensuring that we have diverse writers, producers, and directors behind the scenes, otherwise I don’t see much changing. The industry needs to be held accountable. It’s time to shake things up!

Flatshare Webs Series (Trailer)

Flatshare will be released on YouTube Friday 15th March

News

Short Film | Haircut

March 4, 2019

A middle-aged barber dreams of escaping his rough area and becoming a Dancehall star, but an encounter with a local drug runner brings up uncomfortable truths about his past and makes him reconsider his importance in the community.

Starring: Robbie Gee

Writer / Director: Koby Adom

Producer: Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor

Watch “Haircut” via the link below.

Haircut (Short Film) [Dir. Koby Adom]
Reviews

Review: Fighting With My Family

February 28, 2019

A light-hearted feel-good comedy about one of the most accomplished female wrestlers, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson making a guest appearance, what’s not to like?

The story

Fighting With My Family tells the real-life story of professional wrestler Paige (Florence Pugh) and her journey from wrestling locally in Norwich to wrestling in the biggest professional wrestling organisation in the world: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The film was written & directed by Stephen Merchant (The Office, Ricky Gervais Show) & was produced by everyone’s favourite pro-wrestler turned Hollywood superstar, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who also plays a supporting role in the film.

Paige’s entrance into the WWE also marked the start of the “Diva’s Revolution“, a period in which women wrestling became more prominent within the company. This saw a move away from female wrestlers simply being seen as eye candy or only playing a supporting role, to being seen as true athletes, on par with their male counterparts.

Family first

A clear strength from the outset is the bond between Paige and her family. Coming from a wrestling family, who run a small independent wrestling promotion, all the quirks of this close-knit family are on full display. And the inside jokes between family members and genuine moments of affection really serve as the anchor for the film. Another positive is the casting selection, particularly of the immediate family: mum, Julia (Lena Headey); dad, Ricky (Nick Forst); and brother, Zak (Jack Lowden) all fit perfectly into their respective roles.

Expectations

Despite clocking in at nearly two hours, the film never feels sluggish. Writer / director, Stephen Merchant, does a great job of conveying the key parts of Paige’s journey and maintaining good pacing throughout the film. However, don’t expect much in the way of unexpected plot twists. What you see from the outset is very much what you get with this film.

Those who follow the WWE will also be treated to some cameos from active WWE wrestlers. While the 2008 Micky Rouke-led film The Wrestler was darker and bitter-sweet in tone, Fighting With My Family’s style of comedy feels right at home with this rags-to-riches story.

Final verdict

Great biopics about our favourite sporting superstars can often transcend simply attracting fans of the sporting discipline itself. Fighting With My Family does this and will find a home with anyone who loves a great coming of age story – whether you’re a wrestling fan or not. Fighting With My Family is a well-crafted film full of laughter. The British feel-good film of the year (so far).

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Fighting With My Family Trailer (MGM)