Adewale’s incisive new film, Farming, is an uncompromising drama that deftly tackles themes of trauma, memories of 1970s England. Inspired by Adewale’s own experience of being “farmed” into the care of white foster parents. He was only six weeks old, in 1967 when his Nigerian parents– studying in London – gave him to a white working-class couple in Tilbury, Essex; then a fiercely racist community. In this exclusive interview, Director, Adewale Akinuoye Agbaje discusses his directorial debut ‘Farming’, which is released on Oct 11th,2019- produced by Lionsgate and HanWay Films. The film stars Damson Idris,Kate Beckinsale& John Dagleish. In July, at the 6th National Film Awards UK 2021, Adewale wins the best Actor awards and Kate Beckinsale takes home the best actress awards (Farming). Adewale has just signed on for a new project, starring the opposite talented Actress Emily Watson in the forthcoming movie Late In Summer.
A-CHOICES: Congratulation For Your Best Actor Award at the 6th National Film Awards UK 2021.
ADEWALE: Thank you very much, Teejay. Many thanks for your support over the past years.
A-CHOICES: What does winning this award mean to you?
ADEWALE: Humbled. Personally, it means that it’s awesome and it’s recognition that I am on the right path; that following my heart does work, that doing what I love what I am passionate about … works. Thank you to the National Film Awards and voting fans and to my incredible cast, crew, and producers.#farmingmovie can be seen on @primevideouk.
A-CHOICES: Kate took home the Best Actress gong for her role in the movie ‘Farming’
ADEWALE: Congratulations to Kate Beckinsale for winning best actress for her stella performance in my directorial debut Farming. Well deserved.
A-CHOICES: Please tell us briefly about the incredible story of your upbringing?
ADEWALE: I was born to Nigerian parents in London, who came to study there. When I was six weeks old, my parents gave me up to a white family in Tilbury, Essex. To financially support the family, my foster father earning source was being a lorry driver. At the age of eight/nine, my biological parents whom I was hardly aware of took me on a short trip to Nigeria, I couldn’t understand the local language. They then decided to send me back to Essex, after which I started facing identity crises. I used to rub my skin to make it whiter.
A-CHOICES: What are your views regarding handing you over to other family?
ADEWALE: In my understanding, it is a very old practice in Nigeria to send children to other family for care for this is how children are thought to learn more. In my case, the problem began because it was another country, where white is right. My parents thought they did that for me, but I felt there is a little denial in that belief.
A-CHOICES: What was the reason that instigated you to attempt suicide in your teenage?
ADEWALE: I had forged my identity for myself in a local racist skinhead gang after facing a cultural identity crisis. This gang was violently racist who once beaten and stripped me in the street. At the age of sixteen, I got expelled from school.
A-CHOICES: In your interview with Observer, you are believed to misrepresent skinhead culture. Is that true?
ADEWALE:If those people had grown up in Tilbury? During the early 1980s, London became a multi-cultural melting pot. It was quite a different story on the edges, though. I welcome someone with that vision to come to Tilbury and be the only black child in that community. I don’t want to say that all skinhead culture was like the way I described, but it was probably that particular party. I was forced by my father to face the bullies, but there was no way to get loved. I was advised to fight or get beaten by him otherwise. In short, be a fighter or be a victim. I mostly chose to be the victim.
A-CHOICES: Were your biological parents before their death aware of your ideas about this film?
ADEWALE: They were aware of it, my father told me to just say the truth and that is what I can. They would be quite proud of me after watching this.
A-CHOICES: How you managed from being a skinhead to a master’s degree?
ADEWALE: The great assistance was a professor who helped to transform the law language into an understanding of the vernacular. I was off to the races once I got that. “I obviously knew very well that I was violating the law. My master’s degree was in criminal law.
A-CHOICES: Other than LLB and LLM degrees, you have also been awarded Honorary Doctorate Degree (Kings College University of London) conferred by HRH The Princess Royal. What is education to you and how has it changed your life?
ADEWALE: The education, turned out to be the path to internal transformation and personal fulfillment for me. The first day I took my exam was among the best life-altering moments. I had always been led to think that I was not intelligent. I was made realised that I was incompetent in my career and wouldn’t mean anything. However,I will always remember how I cried after passing the first test. I felt like qualifying with ‘A’, but it was just a pass. This encouraged me and I was not the object of my situations, but I was the creator of my destiny.
A-CHOICES: How did you enter into film industry while pursuing law degree?
ADEWALE: I first participated in modeling at college and one friend recommended that I should move to Los Angeles and seek pursuing an acting path. For a 1995 film named Congo, I headed to an audition and got the role.
A-CHOICES: Being director, tell us about “Farming”, which also got premièred at Toronto Festival, how was the experience filming your own biography?
ADEWALE: In directing the film, I had gone through the trauma of childhood memories and violence. A production designer reconstructed the home which was the birthplace of my self-hatred for many years.
A-CHOICES: What is the most incredible thing about your story in the film?
ADEWALE: That one thing is, it’s not about white and black. My parents used a racist slur to us, but the same thing would be heard from comedies on TV; it was the wallpaper of that time.
Farming is now on DVD
Author: Gbenga Teejay Okunlola