For the month of April, we are excited to present recent work in documentary filmmaking that has captured our attention. These four films will highlight artistic voices and bold paths, taking you from the housing estates of Brixton to the forests of the Taïga.
Young British Nigerian filmmaker and artist Ayo Akingbade makes films with stylistic verve and an infectious appreciation for underdogs, working across genres and formats to shed light on the hidden histories and present tensions of urban social housing. In this short documentary portrait now screening in its online premiere, she tells the story of Dora Boatemah MBE, a Ghanaian activist who transformed a London community in the 80s and 90s.
Akingbade first learned about Boatemah from a mention in an Evening Standard article, but could find very little online about the woman who had regenerated Brixton’s Angell Town Estate. The filmmaker realized the activist was an obscured and underrepresented subject , one of the “radical pioneers often buried in the archive.” She began to uncover Dora’s life, interviewing the estate’s contemporary residents and exploring photos and films saved by the Angell Town Community Project and Boatemah’s family.
“I was intrigued by what could drive a woman with a partner and three sons to campaign for reform in the wake of austerity. Why did she believe in her dream so strongly? Where is her legacy? Why is it so buried and how come there is next to nothing about her in national archives? Where are the small stories that show London’s rich heritage of multiculturalism? Often the depictions of social issues in British cinema are grim kitchen-sink tales, with dull colour palettes and negative reverb. My artistic vision is to weave a rich tapestry of intimate sounds and words, bright cinematography and obscure portraiture into a cohesive energy that will penetrate the heart.” AYO AKINGBADE
Along with Tower XYZ (2016, Oberhausen & NYFF) and Dear Babylon (2019, Images Festival, Berwick), Street 66 is part of Akingbade’s “No News Today Trilogy”. Together the three shorts offer a prismatic range of viewpoints onto urgent questions of urban housing and gentrification. At once educational and aesthetically adventurous, they’re an early fulfillment of Akingbade’s desire to reframe representation of working-class Black people in British cinema. William Greaves, Agnès Varda and Chantal Akerman’s 1977 experimental feature News from Home were among her influences and inspirations for Street 66.
Akingbade lives and works in London. In 2018, she received the Sundance Institute’s Ignite Fellowship for emerging filmmakers. Her recent work includes the poetic Claudette’s Star (2019) and another documentary portrait, Hella Trees (2020). She is currently working with producer Fawzia Mahmood on a new film entitled Jitterbug, and on a commission for London’s Whitechapel Gallery.
- Credits for
- STREET 66
- produced by
- Lewis Taylor
- executive produced by
- Ayo Akingbade & Myers Brothers
- Edwin Mingard
- Tommie Introna
- Daniel Ben-Hur & Oliver Palfreyman
- James Wreford