Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Nigerian-British actor, says ‘Farming’, his directorial debut movie which features ‘Snowfall’s Damson Idris and Genevieve Nnaji, took him 15 years to make.
He said this while speaking to journalists on his experiences with acting and directing at a recently held press conference in Victoria Island, Lagos state.
According to the 52-year-old England-born film producer and screenwriter, the budget for such an extensive and history-oriented movie had proved to be a big deal to clear off amid the reality that he had to learn the skill of writing and directing while on the job.
“I started writing ‘Farming’ in 2003. From start to finish, it probably took me about 15 years to make the film. One of the reasons it took that long is that I never trained as a writer, a director, or even an actor. So, I had to learn the skill of writing and adapting it to a screenplay while I was still doing my acting career,” he said.
“I had to prove I was capable of directing the material. So, I financed a show film myself as something to show my directing ability. I was creating awareness on a subject matter that was searingly honest about Britain at a time in the industry when it wasn’t necessarily open to hearing diverse voices. That took time.
“All these things made it challenging to tell the story. Also, the budget for a first-time filmmaker was quite extensive. It’s a period film that covers three decades. So it was a lot to bite off on your first stab on the cherry. Fortunately, I was able to prove I could do that. And here we are with farming.”
Farming, which stars a deluge of African actors and portrays the stark realities of people of colour in England in the 80s, sees Adewale share the story of how he was fostered out by his parents and made to face discrimination among his peers amid the cultural identity crisis that plagued him at the time.
“I was fostered at six weeks old. My foster parents were my parents, that was all I knew. There were eight to nine other Nigerian children in the house and we all considered ourselves family with my white parents until my Nigerian parents came and took me to Nigeria. That’s when things changed drastically for me,” he narrated.
“Coming back to England was when I started to have it difficult, the first time I saw my foster parents as ‘white’. I wanted the old perception because it was conflicting. I couldn’t reconcile the two worlds. I started having cultural identity crises. As a teenager, I started being racially abused by gangs on the streets and even in my home.”
Although the renowned actor said he’s convinced the practice of fostering out infants among people of African descent is no longer prevalent, he stated that there’s a need for Nigerians to reevaluate their childrearing practices and lay emphasis on maintaining a firm bond with their children, no matter what the challenge might be.
“Over fifty Nigerian children went through the house of my foster parents. Some of their parents never returned for them. When the children came of age and wanted to get passports, they were told they didn’t exist and they wanted to deport them. We need to reevaluate our childrearing practices,” he added.
“The movie gives us a platform to be acknowledged and provides a sort of collective therapy for those that have gone through the practice both for parents and the children. My intention was to create a dialogue and help the Nigerian society to reevaluate our childraising practices.”
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