ARTS / FILM
Gritty London drama ‘Rocks’ fancied for Bafta win
Overdue recognition
Published: Apr 11, 2021 05:18 PM
Promotional material for <em>Rocks</em> Photo: AFP

Promotional material for Rocks Photo: AFP


Rocks
- an ode to multicultural London seen through the eyes of a joyful band of teenaged girls battling adversity through sisterhood - is an unexpected favorite at Sunday's Baftas.

It follows the complicated life of Olushola, a British-Nigerian teenager nicknamed "Rocks," played by 19-year-old Bukky Bakray, who grows up in the working class borough of Hackney.

When her mother unexpectedly disappears, Rocks is left with her younger brother, Emmanuel, and only a few pounds to survive.

The outspoken young girl does everything she can to avoid social services, with the help of her close group of friends.

Director Sarah Gavron made a name for herself with Suffragettes in 2015, tackling the story of the women who fought for the right to vote.

Rocks, which was released in 2019, equally features strong women but they are played almost entirely by total novices.

The production team scoured local schools and drama clubs in east London to find the 13 to 15 year olds to play the girls.

The result is a film that is fresh and cheerful, yet bittersweet. 

"It is film about the resilience, joy, and spirit of girlhood - those were the key ideas we wanted to explore," Gavron, 50, told AFP.

Diversity

Rocks has secured seven Bafta nominations, including some in the prestigious categories of best film, best actress and best director. 

Bafta's 2020 selection was criticized for the absence of black performers, but Gavron's film and its diverse cast shake things up this time.

"It is considered an unusual film in that it centers on girls of color - it seems amazing that in 2021, that is still unusual," said Gavron.

She called the 2021 nominations a "breakthrough," expressing shock it has taken so long to recognize female, black or minority ethnic talent.

"The talent has always been out there, but it has not been recognized," she said, paying tribute to those who have paved the way.

"We very much hope that now a generation of storytellers comes up, who can tell stories from diverse communities that reflect the world we live in. 

"It would be a richer industry and have a broader audience if the stories can have this range."

'Love letter'

Co-writer Theresa Ikoko described the story of Rocks as "a love letter to my sister black and brown girls," and the script reflects the young actresses' real-life experiences.

One "describes herself as a Polish gypsy and wanted to honor her community not often represented on screen," she said.

Another wanted to talk about what it means to wear the veil when you are British. Ikoko insisted no one was obliged to do so. Instead, it reflected "the truth of what London is - and my London is not white at all."

Fellow-scriptwriter Claire Wilson said she is proud of the end result the show has achieved - a representation of the true face of the British capital rather than a sanitized version seen in other productions.


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