Shola Amoo Talks

Art & Culture

London director Shola Amoo is making waves. His recent sci-fi short ‘Touch’ picked up a wealth of plaudits- with feted cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Wolf of Wall Street, Brokeback Mountain) notably enthusing over its stylish, emotional retelling of the Frankenstein myth. Don't take his word for it though –  watch it yourself below…

Touch (Short Film) Directed by Shola Amoo Starring Tanya Fear (Kick Ass 2) from Shola Amoo on Vimeo.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Amoo has already embarked on his next project, a film dealing with that most zeitgeist of London subjects; gentrification. With an intriguing trailer up online, Amoo is tirelessly raising the money to get the film finished – I caught up with him for a spirited talk about London, his influences, and his thoughts on Afrofuturism – then promptly lost the interview when my hard drive died… Amoo, being a gent, agreed to answer further questions over email – to find out more about 'A Moving Image', or any of Amoo's projects head over to his website, or hit him up on twitter

Who would you describe as your influences?

My influences are a mish-mash of different things. I’m as much inspired by musicians and academics, as I am filmmakers. Names that spring to mind include Jacque Audiard, Spike Lee, Prince, David Bowie, Kanye West, Angela Davis and TV on The Radio, to name a few.

Your latest film deals with the gentrification of Brixton – what made you want to tackle the subject?

There are a lot of changes taking place where I live in Elephant & Castle and I’ve seen this reflected throughout London. I find the changes taking place in Brixton intriguing, particularly because of Brixton’s history as a base for black political/social consciousness. Of course, areas change but I’m keen to explore what happens to the people, their communities and their relationship with their identities as this process takes place.

As a Londoner yourself, what's your relationship to the area you grew up?

It’s a positive one. South London has a particular energy, which is unmistakable. It’s funny how years go, places like Elephant, Brixton and Peckham had this stigma of being risqué – whilst to many who lived there, it was just culturally vibrant and cool. Fast forward to now and you have places like Peckham being dubbed the new Shoreditch. I find this change in philosophy very interesting.

How long will it be before we get to see A Moving Image?

Depends on how long it takes to fund the film – for now check out the 2 minute promo vid ….

Does the process of crowd sourcing a film lead to more compromises or less?

This will be my first crowd funded project so I’m not entirely sure – but I suspect less!

What other projects are you working on at the moment?

I’m developing a feature film under the Ifeatures scheme called “The Last Tree”. It’s a story about a black Journalist who was raised by white adoptive parents. He has to go on a journey to find and reconnect with his biological family.

Your films have been placed in a number of black film festivals – bearing in mind that the reverse is never done to films made by caucasians, do you think that defining a film as a black film, or a director as a black director is a help or hindrance?

It’s tricky, the industry defines what a film is, so they can market it accordingly I’m less inclined to think about that sort of thing – and yet one can’t ignore it’s effects.

Touch surprised a lot of people by placing black actors in the countryside – were you expecting to wrong foot people with something so simple?

Yes – I think we have some way to go in regards to the range of roles that black or minority actors can play. That’s a real hot topic right now, particularly with The Act For Change Campaign – and with so many talented Black British actors/actresses moving to the U.S to find work.

Would you consider Touch an afro futurist work? And do you have any thoughts on the genre/label?

I would called it Afro-futuristic in spirit rather than by any academic definition. To me Afro-futurism enables black artist to re-imagine black bodies or consciousness, in an elevated space – and without restriction. So to some degree we’re talking about creative freedom, limited only by our imaginations.I think for a group who have historically (and still today) been physically, psychologically and spiritually policed – Afro-futurism presents a compelling counter of possibilities.

How close is the finished version of Touch to your original conception? Like, does it do what you want it to? And is there anything you'd change?

The final version of Touch is pretty close to script. There’s not really anything I would change. I actually think the film is better than the script – but I think that only happens when you create a space to experiment and embrace the possibility of failure.

Finally, if the rights were yours for the taking, what film would you remake, and what book would you bring to the screen?

I would remake Django Unchained and I would like to bring Homer’s The Odyssey to screen with an added twist.