We did this fantastic interview with Tomisin Adepeju, director of The Good Soon (UK) a unique, colourful short about family, conflict and tradition, letting the audience in with an intimate view into a traditional Nigerian household. Here’s what Tomisin got back to us with:
A brief introduction to yourself as a filmmaker
I made my first film in 2008 with my siblings, my 15 year old sister was the camera operator and my 11 year old brother was the gaffer. I played the lead actor and edited the film with my best friend. That one day of shooting was undoubtedly the highlight of my summer that year, the experience coupled with multiple viewings of Woody Allen’s seminal masterpiece, Annie Hall definitely sparked my interest in film-making. It made me realise that this wasn’t just a hobby I wanted to occasionally do but rather, it was something I wanted to purse as a career.
I studied Film Theory at Royal Holloway University and made a few shorts during my time there, the films I made were mostly homages and parodies of films by directors I was reading and writing about at the time, filmmakers like Chris Marker, Spike Lee, Jean Luc Godard and so many others. It wasn’t until I enrolled in film school last year that I felt I truly started to make films that were important to me. Film school really allowed me to discover what kind of stories I wanted to tell, I realised towards the end of the programme that I wanted to make films that were deeply personal and explored relatable human characters and stories. I think most importantly, I realised that I wanted to create films that reflected important elements of my African culture and roots.
The Good Son, which I made at Met Film School, and my graduation film, Marianne, undoubtedly reflects the themes and ideas I want to explore in my work.
This is a film that brings traditional Nigerian customs into a modern day setting through cinema. Do you feel this is something that makes these traditions more accessible in terms of representation?
Absolutely! I feel that presenting these very traditional, Nigerian themes in a modern day setting has undoubtedly made it more accessible to a western audience.
I visually and quite literally wanted to transport the audience to Nigeria, I wanted to create the impression that they were watching a film that is set in Nigeria, this is of course until the female protagonist is introduced in the story. So, the language spoken, music, costumes and colours all depict and reflect a very vibrant and exclusive Nigerian community. Also, I knew quite early on during the writing process that I didn’t want to make this film for a purely African audience, so by presenting these very traditional, Nigerian themes and characters in a modern landscape, the film does not completely alienate someone who perhaps has not been exposed to Nigerian culture and traditions. I was born in Nigeria but I have lived in London for almost 11 years now, so I consider myself to be Nigerian/British, I feel that the narratives I create should reflect this fact. I don’t want to make Nollywood films, their films explore African stories from a purely African context and perspective,
I want to create narratives that reflects the experiences of the African diaspora.
So, although this film features predominately African characters and explores certain elements of Nigerian culture and traditions, grounding these very Nigerian themes in a western and modern landscape undoubtedly makes the stories and characters relatable and universal.
The film focuses on the idea of a “secret”. Where did the idea behind the story come from and is there a cultural significance to this?
I made a mockumentary a few years about young interracial couples,the film utilised humour to examine the impact the couples’ relationships had on their homes and families. I have always wanted to revisit the subject but tackle it in a different way, so, instead of using humour as the central tool, I would make it more tragic, emotional and dramatic. Also, I had heard stories growing up about young couples in Nigeria whose families have not allowed them to marry because they were from different tribes. Nigeria is made up of a lot of tribes and ethnic groups, I think the country is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups, the most populous and politically influential being; Igbo, Fulani, Hausa and Yoruba, my own tribe. I just found it incredibly fascinating that although we’re all black and proudly call ourselves Nigerians, in some part of the country, it is still seen as a crime to marry someone from a different tribe or ethnic group.
So, I thought it would be interesting to exaggerate this and create a narrative that followed a Nigerian/British man, brought up in a strict and traditional, Nigerian household but gets romantically involved with a woman who isn’t even from the same country or cultural background. I felt this story allowed me to tackle a lot important themes and topics like religion, race and cultural identity. Ultimately, I wanted to create a narrative that reflected a tragic reality that is seldom discussed or highlighted but is still very prevalent in today’s society.
There is some cultural significance to the idea of a “secret”, I think its is an important narrative tool that has been utilised in many films to create drama and conflict. The idea of a secret does have an important cultural significance in the context of the story, the main protagonist, Kunle, is, in the eyes of his parents, a good son – religious, honest, respectful and dutiful, so the fact that he has been keeping such an important secret from them is undoubtedly the most devastating thing he could do.
Do Nigerian and other African cultures have enough representation in film?
In the past few years, more African film-makers have been given the platform to showcase truly unique, African stories, something I feel is needed in the current cinematic climate. There have been some truly mesmerising Nigerian stories represented through Nollywood, the second largest film industry in the world in number of annual film productions. The work of pioneer Nigerian film-makers like Kunle Afolayan, Jeta Amata, Obi Emelonye, Tunde Kelani and many others has definitely transformed Nigerian cinema and has allowed Nigerian stories to be represented on screen. There has also been a wave of African films that has been storming the film festival circuit, with some even finding theatrical release, films like Gone Too Far by Destiny Ekaragha, Mother of George by Andrew Dosunmu, Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako, Difret by Zeresenay Mehari and many others.
There could be so much more films like these being made, narratives that truthfully capture and represent the African experience, unfortunately, the film-makers are not getting the funding or resources they need because their films are not commercial enough or because there is no audience for them.
Well, the films I have just mentioned proves that there is an audience for these stories and there always will be.
The Good Son (UK) will be screened at No Gloss Film Festival 2015.