With Farming, Agbaje makes directorial debut
British-Nigerian actor, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, has made his directorial debut with a biopic, Farming. The film, which tells the story of his traumatic early life was premiered at the Filmhouse Cinemas, Lekki, Lagos, last week. The film, which features Agbaje, Genevieve Nnaji, Kate Beckinsale, Gugu Matha-Raw, Damson Idris and others, tells the story of how Agbaje, a young Nigerian boy raised by white foster parents in 1979s Tilbury, Essex, forges an identity for himself in a violently racist local environment dominated by a skinhead group.
The story dramatises a brutal and moving coming of age and shines a light on a chapter in Britain’s race relations which is not known. It is the practice that led to thousands of Nigerian children like Agbaje being ‘farmed out’ to British families in that period. It is a story of a young man displaced from his cultural heritage and trying to find his identity.
Speaking on the film, Agbaje says: “Here in Britain, we know a lot about the history of Black American slavery, civil rights, and the African American experience. But very little is known about the black British struggle. This is just one of our stories.
“This film shows the direct correlation between racism and self-hatred.”
He reveals there are themes that are relevant to what’s happening in today’s Nigeria.
According to him, while directing the film, he had to go through all the nightmarish boyhood trauma and violence in details for a second time.
“A production designer rebuilt the house to perfection and I wasn’t prepared for the well of emotions that it would evoke as I was immediately reduced to the eight-year old boy that used to hide behind the sofa,” he says.
He also had to step into the shoes of his father by playing the role of his father and see himself through his eyes. His words: “It’s a project I couldn’t live without telling and this is what really motivated me to tell it. It was surreal to stand in my father’s shoes and look at myself from his perspective, that was both healing and painful and enlightening.”
Speaking on whether the society is doing enough to protect people of colour and help many improve on their confidence, Agbaje says people should never rely on society to make a change.
“It has to come from within. We all have to be accountable for our change.
Our own human revolution. Because that will inspire and influence a lot if people and one becomes two, two becomes a group, a group becomes a community, a community becomes a society. So it has to start from the individual.
“The story of Farming is about an individual who wrestled with his own self-worth, identity and ultimately triumph through self-worth and self-love. Hopefully, that can inspire others to do the same.”
On the Nigerian film industry, he has this to say: “Nollywood is doing well but must improve on quality in telling stories in rich texture and in ways they can.”
He adds: “If we stick to that, who knows, it may become the dominant channel. But I don’t think the focus should be on what the West is doing or what the rest are doing. It should be how we want to do it for ourselves.”
Film star, Beckinsale, describes the work as an incredibly fractured love story between mother and adopted son.
Managing Director, Film One, Moses Babatope, notes: “We have so many stories that need to be told. Many, like Farming, have relevance beyond Africa and affect the history and culture of other countries where there is a Nigerian diaspora. We want to ensure that audiences in West Africa get to watch movies that shift the conversation around our impact on the world.”
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