Bfi Poll Reveals Uk’s Favourite Black Star Performance: Sidney Poitier As “Mister Tibbs”

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Award-Winning Playwright Theresa Ikoko Talks About New Play 'Girls'

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Bfi Poll Reveals Uk’s Favourite Black Star Performance: Sidney Poitier As “Mister Tibbs”

sidneyTo mark this week’s official launch of its BLACK STAR season, the BFI announced that Sidney Poitier’s critically-acclaimed and seminal performance as Detective Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night (dir. Norman Jewison, 1967) has been voted the public’s Favourite Black Star Performance in a poll which included 100 performances spanning over 80 years in film and TV.

Running alongside the public poll, a separate poll of over 100 industry experts voted for Angela Bassett’s Oscar®-nominated performance as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It (dir. Brian Gibson, 1993). UK Public Poll Pam Grier followed in second place with her terrific turn as the titular character in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown – an homage to the 1970’s era of Blaxploitation films in America;

Michael K. Williams was number three with his unforgettable portrayal of the legendary Omar Little, the openly gay, notorious stick-up man with a strict moral code feared by drug dealers across the city of Baltimore, in the socially and politically charged hit television series The Wire. British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor followed in fourth with his visceral portrayal of Solomon Northup, his break-out performance in Steve McQueen’s ground-breaking, Oscar®-winning true story, 12 Years A Slave; and Morgan Freeman rounded out the top five with his acclaimed, quiet and layered performance in Frank Darabont’s Oscar®-nominated cult classic, The Shawshank Redemption.

The Top 10 Favourite Black Star Performances voted by the public:

  1. Sidney Poitier (In the Heat of the Night, 1967)
  2. Pam Grier (Jackie Brown, 1997)
  3. Michael K. Williams (The Wire, 2002-2008)
  4. Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, 2013)
  5. Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, 1994)
  6. Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, 1994)
  7. Denzel Washington (Malcolm X, 1992)
  8. Whoopi Goldberg (The Color Purple, 1985)
  9. Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do with It, 1993)
  10. Sidney Poitier (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1967)

From Angela Bassett in What’s Love Got to Do with It to Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple, Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction and Denzel Washington in Malcom X, the poll’s top 10 results include an array of fan favourites, critically-acclaimed and award-winning performances. They vary in their diverse subject matter and characters – exploring racism, sexuality, violence, Blaxploitation, civil rights, music, poverty, love, politics, to name just a few.

“Sidney Poitier’s iconic performance lights up a thrilling film, the scalding power of which hasn’t dimmed in the near half-century since it was released. In his own inimitable way, Poitier imbues Mister Tibbs with poise, power and endless reserves of dignity — he takes the high road when others choose to go low, but stands for no nonsense either. Tibbs is as much of a hero for our times as he was for his, and the results of this poll only confirm that fact.”

Ashley Clark, BFI Black Star season programmer Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, DL, one of the poll’s industry experts and known for her breadth of work and great contribution to British film, television, literature, theatre and politics also commented on Sidney’s Poitier’s performance, “To me, he is the finest black actor of our time and has been truly inspirational.”

In the Heat of the Night, which will be re-released by Park Circus from 18 November in select cinemas across the UK as part of the BFI’s BLACK STAR season, won five Oscars® in 1968, including Best Picture, Best Actor (for Rod Steiger), Best Screenplay and Best Editing. Directed by Norman Jewison, the film is not only a hard-hitting murder mystery, but also entertaining, atmospheric and insightful in its reflection of American society at the time. Undoubtedly one of the key reasons for the film’s success was Sidney Poitier, who is devastatingly cool and charismatic as Philadelphia homicide detective Virgil Tibbs. Tibbs arrives in a small Southern backwater to visit his mother but becomes embroiled in a murder investigation when he’s picked up by the local police simply for the ‘crime’ of being black. When Tibbs’ profession is confirmed, he’s teamed with a racist redneck sheriff (Steiger) to help with the investigation – a riveting partnership that reflects the era’s desperately strained race relations.

Over 100 industry experts, including film critics, film festival programmers, filmmakers, actors and cultural experts shortlisted the performances, while the ultimate winner was decided by the public.

The results have been published in full online at

While this was by no means an exhaustive list of stand-out performances, it is a pertinent reminder of the rich history of great performances by black actors, and the impact of black actors in telling memorable stories that connect with global audiences through their creation and portrayal of unforgettable characters.

Industry Expert Poll

angelaThe industry experts also voted from the shortlist for their Top 10 Favourite Black Star Performances, selecting as their number one choice, Angela Bassett’s captivating and powerful, Oscar®-nominated performance in Brian Gibson’s What’s Love Got to Do with It. The Top 10 Favourite Black Star Performances voted by industry experts:


  1. Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do with It, 1993)
  2. Pam Grier (Jackie Brown, 1997)
  3. Sidney Poitier (In the Heat of the Night, 1967)
  4. Denzel Washington (Malcolm X, 1992)
  5. Whoopi Goldberg (The Color Purple, 1985)
  6. Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, 2013)
  7. Juanita Moore (Imitation of Life, 1959)
  8. Dorothy Dandridge (Carmen Jones, 1954)
  9. Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets and Lies, 1997)
  10. Danny Glover (To Sleep with Anger, 1990)

Ashley Clark commented, “Topping the critics’ poll is Angela Bassett who, as Tina Turner in the searing biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It, gave a performance for the ages—vigorous, vulnerable and vivacious.”

British actress Pearl Mackie, who also contributed as an industry expert to the poll and who will be co-starring in the upcoming season of Doctor Who shared her thoughts on Angela Bassett’s performance, “This film remains vividly etched in my memory. The violence that Anna Mae (Turner) suffers at the hands of her husband Ike is brutal and humiliating, but what really struck me is the gnawing inner turmoil Bassett depicts so beautifully that this monster attacking her is the man she desperately loves.”

The BFI’s BLACK STAR season, which will run until the end of the year, is the UK’s biggest season of film and television dedicated to celebrating the range, versatility and power of black actors. The season’s aim is to bring the work of black actors to a new generation of UK audiences, helping to reposition them and their performances in our collective memory.

Susan Wokoma Talks Being a Demon Hunter in New E4 Comedy-Horror Series Crazyhead

Susan Wokoma

Susan Wokoma

Brought to us by an E4, Netflix collaboration, Crazyhead follows Raquel (Susan Wokoma) an impulsive, temperamental and prone to violent outbursts demon hunter and Amy (Cara Theobold) who after finding out her best friend Suzanne (Riann Steele) has been possessed by a demon, realises what she thought were crazy hallucinations… are actually true.

The unlikely pair meet as a result of their demon spotting abilities and together decide to take on London’s demon gangs, along with navigating real world stuff like the over-protective big brother (Arinze Kene), not so clever boyfriend/friend/what are we, and best friends who don’t know how to behave… 

Having watched one episode, what stands out is Ms Wokoma is a bloody good actress with great comedy timing. She’s already showed what she can do as the virginal / undercover freaky sister Cynthia to Michaela Coel’s Tracey in the brilliant comedy series Chewing Gum, also E4. But Crazyhead’s a different kettle of fish and Wokoma’s character Raquel, is less virginal, more nutty, outspoken and ballsy…probably due to the fact she has to fight demons all the time!

There’s something about British born Africans, when we get together. We turn into caricatures of our parents, mimicking their facial expressions, exaggerating their accents… There’s a connecting camaraderie of feeling at home, and comfortable when you meet a fellow person who reminds you of ‘back home’ – your British African householdIt’s no different when I met up with Wokoma, we spent a good while going through the African-British-Born-Bonding ritual before we got into talking about her role.

Crazyhead’s good innit! You’ve done well [universal African accent voice]. Are the parents on board?

It’s good innit [universal African accent voice]. Yeah mum’s on board now, she just sort of gave up. I remember when I got a play at The National, she called me just as I got the news. I said ‘mum I got…’ she said ‘no, no, no let me just tell you something it’s on my heart… I feel like you’ll never work again. I’m just scared, I want you to have your house please Susan, just reconsider’ I’m trying to interrupt, she’s like ‘no…’ then I was like ‘Mum, Mum I’ve got a job…’ she said ‘Oh God is good…I just wanted you to know there are other options for you’ [laughs]. So she’s on board.

What, she’s even on board with Chewing Gum – that internet porn scene and everything?

She loves it. The episode with the laptop [internet porn scene] as soon as it ended, [I looked at my phone] and saw ‘MUM’ I said ‘nope I’m not answering the phone’. But she’s leaving voice messages laughing. She loves it.

I don’t know who broke the African parents’ traditional resolve, but I’ll say thanks, because now we’re a bit freer. Now you can take on roles like this a serial zombie killer without worrying?

Yeah it’s great, I no longer have to worry about what’s mummy going to feel… But actually, she’s never made me feel like I can’t take on a role. I’ve always been able to make my choice. Black women are policed so much, there’s no point in trying to police yourself on top of that. I know some people do worry about the representation of black people on screen, and worry because we’re not being represented right, or enough… That’s what it is, it’s not necessarily about not being represented correctly, it’s about not being represented enough. Because there are lots of different types of black people who exist. Once you have a variety then you have can have comedies where it’s slapstick and doesn’t mean anything, as long as you’ve got things to balance it, and we don’t have the balance. So I understand it’s something to be aware of, but you’ve got to be carefree. That’s how I’ve operated. Rather than I owe a responsibility to my race, I’m going to do the work that I really enjoy.

Which is evident as the roles you’ve taken aren’t stereotypical ‘black girl’ roles, and you’ve also magically avoided the angry-dark-skinned-side-friend…Now with Crazyhead, you’re a co-lead…!

Yes! But that’s about how you play stuff. With Raquel in Crazyhead I just knew that when you’ve got a good writer, when you’ve got a good team, whenever the character is big, brash… there has to be vulnerability and I worked my arse off to portray that. I say work my arse off, but actually Howard’s [Howard Overman – Creator/ writer] written it and he’s not an idiot, he knows that the bravado, the bigness has to come from somewhere.  There is also that thing at the back of my mind, if I’m playing a stock character, the angry black woman, or subservient black woman you just have to know that you’re good enough to not ever just be that. But it’s hard.


When you grew up were you seen as the different black girl? Someone from the ‘hood’ may look at you / your roles and not identify… Did your school / home environment growing up play a part in how you’ve managed to navigate the industry?

In my household we’re really different. I’ve got my older sister who is quite posh, a bit bouji; love her. Then I’ve got my little sister and older brother who are right cockneys. Right EastEnders talk. Then there’s me… and I see my mum looking at this smorgasbord of children, confused… In my household, being a certain way was not a thing it just wasn’t. Then when I went to school in Elephant and Castle the girls would question me ‘where are you from? Why’ve you travelled all the way to Old Kent Road to go to school?’… and I was like ‘because I live there’… There were some girls who said we don’t believe it. We think you’re pretending and I have met people who ask ‘what is this, what is this persona?’ and I have to say It’s just me. From an early age there was an expectancy of how I should behave and I just said no. Not doing it.

How did you build your resolve, was it because people kept challenging you that you were forced to develop a thick skin?

Yes, people challenged me very, very early and there was stuff that my parents didn’t quite understand about me and so I just needed to work it out. I think I just cared less about what people thought, and then of course what happens is you get older and you start to care more. But I was very lucky in that I had a lot of people outside of my experience saying you’re quite good at this, this is your strength. I had teachers who would tell me to apply for various opportunities. I’ve had allies all through my life. So it didn’t come innately from myself, especially to do with acting, it was people saying you should do it. Also school wasn’t my only means of socialising. I started doing National Youth Theatre at the age of 14 so I started being in other spaces, I started reading other text, I started meeting other people. I remember when someone first spoke Welsh to me. I was like OH MY GOSH I didn’t know it’s like a proper language! I remember getting Sky and showing my mum the Welsh language channel, and we couldn’t believe it. So it’s just the cliché of walking in other people’s shoes. The more that you step outside of your own experiences, the more you learn and I don’t think it’s changed me.

But, it allowed you to look at roles with a different perspective…

There’s always fear there. I had a lot of people telling me this is good, you’re good, then you grow up, those people move on, and then it’s just you. You’re there on set with all these people and you have to drag the self-confidence out. So I do get scared, but in terms of the work that I do, I’ve always stressed to the people that work with me, my agent… I want variety.

It was an open casting for the role of Raquel… How did you get the script?

Yes which means a lot more competition. I got the script through my agent, I was doing A Raisin in the Sun [Eclipse Theatre production] at the time, got the script, saw Netflix, Channel 4…

What got you, the companies behind it or the storyline?

It was the words on paper because sometimes you hear those buzzwords and read it and you’re like ‘trash’ ‘rubbish’. But I remember after doing the show [Raisin], went home, I read all three episodes and said dammit I want it.

Which character caught your attention from the first read of the script

Raquel. I kept hearing all the words, I could see myself and as soon as you start seeing yourself then you know it’s got you. This heart-breaking feeling of I want it

Every time you’ve had the feeling of connecting with the script and imagining yourself as the character have you gotten the role?

Sometimes. The first audition I went in and I felt like it went well, but you can never tell because it was open; I didn’t know what they wanted. So I realised very quickly that I’ve just got to do it and walk. Then the second audition that’s where you’re getting closer and closer, so I spent like an hour with Al our director and the casting director then Cara came in and we spent about another 45mins doing scenes. I left saying I’d done all I can. The reason why that feeling is important is because this has happened to me so many times where I’ve gone up for something, I’ve done all that I can, I don’t get it and then I get something else.

Bluestone 42 is a really good example. I auditioned for one of the series regulars when I’d just left drama school but I looked too young to play a corporal soldier even though I was 22. I didn’t get it. I was close but didn’t get it and I was gutted. Three or four years later, I get an audition for an episode for Bluestone 42 again, they said we love you, we wrote the part for you, and it’s not one episode it’s three. It’s because they remember what you do. So I’ve learned throughout my whole career that you’ve got to just go in there, drop the mic, go, and they’ll decide. It’s happened to me so many times. It’s your reputation of being good

Crazyhead touches a bit on mental health, with Raquel being written off as mentally unstable because of her demon spotting abilities… Will there be more exploration of being judged as someone with mental difficulties?

No it doesn’t. It’s a nice little touch because Amy, Cara’s character, is the eyes into this world, so if you’re from the outside and you say that you see things, then people think something is wrong with you. That’s where it begins with Amy stopping her medication because she realises it’s real. It’s not explained too much but Raquel has been fighting demons since she was a young teenager. She’s the only one who can see them and over the years of fighting them on her own, she knows how serious it is, how life and death it is, so she plays the system so that she can continue to hunt demons. She tells her brother that she’s been going to her therapy sessions. So that she can go out and do what she needs to do. It’s about assimilation. Which is an apt metaphor…

Are you a horror fan? I find it strange when people pay to be scared?

I love being scared. I love the feeling of being scared. I do pay to be scared. I went to see The Woman in Black with my boyfriend at the time, he’d seen it before and he put me in the aisle seat. I was like why am I in the aisle seat, babe you’ve got longer legs than me, but he insisted I sit there. So I’m watching the play, and then the woman in black comes past and her cloak touched my leg and I screamed, swearing! The thing is I get so scared but the adrenaline feeling is so good. It’s like a rollercoaster. I love it.

What’s next for you?

Chewing Gum’s coming back and if Crazyhead comes back for a second series, we’ll be starting pretty damn soon. I’m also writing at the moment which is all very new… I’m going to see what happens.

Crazyhead starts on E4 Tonight, Wednesday 19th October at 9pm.

Award-Winning Playwright Theresa Ikoko Talks About New Play ‘Girls’

girls_soho_theatreThree actresses appear on stage playfully miming as the audience enters the theatre, then, almost out of nowhere the play starts. There is no announcement, no turn off your phones request by management. We are just instantly drawn into their world, the Girls’ world and forget about ourselves until the end.

Girls, which is currently showing at the Soho theatre has to be one of the best orchestrated and dynamic shows I’ve ever seen. With the use of fantastic stage lighting and special effects, a very thought provoking storyline and an incredible performance by all three of the leads, this amazing drama had a colossal force that moved most of audience to tears.

Played by Anita-Joy Uwajeh, Yvette Boakye and Abiola Ogunbiyi. This cast had 10/10 chemistry bouncing off each other like racket and tennis ball. They had such tremendous enthusiasm and interestingly different but animated personalities. What I enjoyed was noticing the subtext of each character, the little moments of each thought process which sometimes they showed for no reason, I believe this is the most effective type of theatre. But with me it’s always about detail.

The story is set in a part of Africa which remained anonymous; the girls sharing an example of what many young women experience. The unfairness of kidnapping, sexism, arranged marriage and forced religion. This controversial plot was intelligently pieced together by award-winning playwright Theresa Ikoko. With 3 other productions already under her belt along with providing ongoing support as alumni to Talawa, one of London’s most respected black theatre companies, the Alfred Fagon award winner spoke to us about her journey as a playwright and the importance of her latest project… 

Could you give us a quick brief on the 3 main characters in Girls?

Haleema is the self-assigned leader. Actually, the other two seem to hand it over quite easily to her. She is driven, hard, caring and practical. She can be quite single minded and incapable of understanding opinion and views that contradict her own. Ruhab’s strength comes from her ability to adapt. She is beautiful and knows it, but she is tougher than people give her credit for. She is fun, and gentle. Haleema thinks Ruhab can be naive, but Ruhab would say, unlike Haleema, that she is open minded. She can appear a little self centred. Tisana is playful and optimistic. She loves her friends and her family. She has a strong, though sometimes unrealistic sense of who she is and who she should be. She is playful, and sometimes babied, but she has a quiet resilience that most people overlook.

How did you go about casting the right three actors to bring these characters to life, which qualities were you looking for?

Myself, Nadine Rennie (casting director, Soho), Elayce Ismail (director) and Holly White (Hightide) held loads of auditions. We are not short of talented black females in this country, despite their poor representation on stage and screen. There were some qualities that we knew the characters had, and that we wanted to see (e.g, Anita Joy Uwajeh’s ability to balance Haleema’s strength and compassion), some qualities in the characters that the actor revealed (e.g. Yvette Boakye’s presentation of a resolute and considered side of Ruhab, that I had had trouble articulating before seeing her performance) and some things that were just unexplainable magic (e.g. Knowing Abiola Ogundeli was Tisana, one line into her audition). There was also the factor of chemistry. Friendship is one of the strongest themes of this play. We did a lot of work in auditions trying to find three actors that sparked perfectly together. If you see AJ, Yvette and Abiola walking down the street, sitting on a bench or doing each other’s hair in the dressing room, you would think they have been the best of friends since nursery. Their chemistry and love is so evident. That love sings off the stage. It’s gold dust.

Theresa Ikoko

Theresa Ikoko

Why was Girls such an important story for you to tell?

Curiosity makes the world smaller, it breeds compassion which is a powerful force. It leads to action, to change. I’m not quite sure what, if anything, a play can do… But I like the idea that for an hour, we take the time to get to know three black girls, we laugh with, and at them, we are impressed by them, we judge them, we disapprove of them, we love them. After I fell in love with the girls, I got excited about other people getting to know them; for the girls to disprove, to challenge and to rebuild people’s ideas (or lack thereof) of three girls they are unfamiliar with. I hope they are girls that people don’t forget so easily, and that maybe, in turn, we will be less inclined to forget, ignore and dismiss stories of other women, all over the world.

In a previous interview you mentioned that you have a responsibility in your writing and want to tell stories that represent the true hardships people face in the world. What do you hope to achieve by creating stories such as these?

Telling stories of hardship isn’t really what I’m about. Nina Steiger (National Theatre) describes my writing as ‘banter and brutality’. I like that. I try and be completely honest with the light and the dark of the world my characters live in. It’s interesting that brutality and banter, depending on the context, can be equally inappropriate. But, honesty is my only agenda. To tell truthful stories. Truthful, to the characters who do not represent a larger social group or drive a political agenda. I am aware that black female protagonists are not the norm, so I do take extra care to protect my characters.

I feel a responsibility to women and to black people; to not let us down, in a way. I think that drives me to dig a little deeper with my characters. Even if the portrayal isn’t flattering, I hope the honesty is undeniable and satisfying. People look to art for answers, but I sort of see it like art creates a space for questions we might not know to ask, or might never have been asked or a space to question our own thoughts, actions, ideas and feelings.

Do you fear that with this mindset you may be pigeonholed as a writer?

Not really. I think there are enough stories and spaces to tell them, to go around. I think every storyteller’s focus is on the story and the rest falls into place (or not). I’m fortunate to be surrounded by amazing companies and artists, who encourage me to just tell the best story I can, and for that to be the main focus. I still don’t really refer to myself as a writer. I’m not sure when I’ll get to the place where I feel like a writer. I’m still very new to this. I’m figuring it out as I go.

Being able to tell the stories you want relies heavily on the improvement of diversity in the arts, how do you feel things are improving… or not?

I haven’t grown up in the arts, and I didn’t study it, so I haven’t been privy to any inside experiences or development, but from the perspective of an audience member… I don’t feel like much is changing on the screen. There aren’t many/any stories starring black or Asian British people, by black or Asian Brits, on our TV (except Netflix, YouTube, independent projects etc). It’s not for lack of talent out there because I’m constantly blown away by black and Asian writers at readings and scratch nights.

There are amazing schemes that encourage diversity, but, I think the bottom up push for diversity, will always fall short, while the gatekeepers remain homogenous. Diversity needs to be as much a top down effort, or all the effort on the ground comes to nought when commissioning rounds kick off.

In terms of theatre (off West End), I think there are so many spaces and ways stories are being told now. From the National, to Old Red Lion, to Soho, to festivals, to youth theatre, most of us can find a story to connect with. It’s quite an exciting time.

Theatre companies like Talawa work hard at championing black talent and ensure that quality and art take precedence, thus making our right and ability to tell stories, undeniable.

What’s it been like working in the Soho theatre?

Soho has been incredible. The support and belief they offer is really special. They are totally driven by the art and that means as a theatre, their priorities are in line with mine, and that of the creative team around Girls. We had some last minute dashes across counties to get cables and bits of material etc. Thankfully, the team are so passionate and hard working.

What do you hope the audience take away from watching Girls?

I hope the audience really connect with the celebration of female friendship. I hope they are moved and joy filled. I hope they are reminded of the power and strength of womanhood. I hope they fall in love with these girls. I hope they care about their future and their present, and their past. I hope they think of them often and the women they remind them of. I hope the audience think of the women that they don’t know, that they may have forgotten about, and they think of the potential in them.

Are there any other avenues you’d like to explore as well as writing?

I still work full time, so between work and writing, I’ve been quite busy, but writing was a new and unexpected discovery, so I’m trying to stay open and curious, because life is so unpredictable and I enjoy its surprises.

Any big plans for the rest of 2016?

I think when Girls closes, I might exhale for the first time in a while. It’s been the most soul demanding thing I think I’ve ever done, and the most wonderful, so I’ll probably, against my brain’s demands for rest and self preservation, immediately start all over again.


“Girls” is on at the soho theatre until the 29th October – This play makes you laugh and makes you cry, but most importantly it makes you think, about the world we are living in today and what do we do to change it. I recommend it to absolutely anyone!

Go to the Soho Theatre website to book tickets:


Written by Eysis Clacken for The British Blacklist

Review: ’76’ First Nollywood Film to Premiere at Both Toronto and London Film Festivals

The year is 1976 and Nigeria is on the brink of civil war. Some soldiers have decided to join the Dimka’s coup, inciting internal violence and unrest, leading to the eventual assassination of General Murtala Ramat Muhammed. After the coup is toppled and defeated, the accused are arrested and subjected to torture.
But when a soldier is wrongfully charged with being part of this rebel group, it becomes a race against time
to prove his innocence before he is inevitably brought to justice in brutal fashion.

76 uses this real historical tragedy as the backdrop to its main story, which focuses on the loving relationship between husband (Dewa) and his wife (Suzy), both eagerly looking forward to the birth of their first child. Dewa played by Ramsey Nouah is an officer in the Nigerian army, but when he meets up with his best friend and army compatriot Major Gomos played by Chidi Mokeme – Gomos tries to instigate Dewa’s recruitment into the rebel group. Emotionally divided by his moral values and dedication to his pregnant wife, Dewa becomes at odds with what he believes is right, and his friend’s strong influence over him.

The movie’s direction, however, seems to gravitate towards Dewa’s wife Suzy played by Rita Dominic whose naturalistic performance, embodies the plight of the Soldiers’ wives. Her worries, seem to magnify on a day to day basis whilst Dewa is away at the barracks, as she visibly struggles to deal with his absence.
This all comes to a head, when he is placed under arrest, and her fight to get her husband released, becomes a frantic and desperate affair.

With her family also disapproving of Dewa and their marriage she finds herself emotionally embroiled in a melting pot, that enhances her insecurities. This especially becomes prominent after the manipulative captain of the military police played by Adonijah Owiriwah, shines a torch on Dewa’s dark secretive past, implanting niggling doubts in Suzy’s mind, to force her hand in implicating her husband.

Filmed in Ibadan, Nigeria, 76 manages to capture the seventies decade, and all the themes associated with that era, with great aplomb. Everything is authentically presented, from the clothing style which was influenced by seventies American culture, to the army uniforms and weapons, even down to the vintage cars and music. It has an undeniable retro feel, and the frequent flicker of screen grain helps enhance its believability.

What’s extremely impressive though, is how the producers have managed to effectively produce such a coherent piece of work, at such a tight budget. Shot entirely with the Super 16 Arriflex, it took seven years to complete in total, but tonally, still manages to keep the atmosphere and feel consistently spot on, which is an impressive feat.

Overall this is a Nollywood Romantic Love Story, set during the socio-political backdrop of the Nigerian Civil war, that manages to show the purity and power of the love between two souls, tackling adversity at all costs – even in the face of death.

76 screened at the London Film Festival Saturday 15 October


Review by @JayWillBeMe

Riann Steele Talks Being the Not So Pretty Best Friend in E4’s Crazyhead

Riann Steele

Riann Steele

Riann Steele is one of the cast of new E4 / Netflix series collaboration Crazyhead a brand new comedy horror series about love, friendship and facing your demons.

Created and written by BAFTA-winning Misfit’s creator Howard Overman, the six-part series follows the angst and exorcisms of an unlikely duo of demon hunters, Amy (Cara Theobold) and Raquel (Susan Wokoma).

After relocating to her birthplace New York to shake up her career for new opportunities, Steele said she accepted the role of Suzanne [Amy’s best friend] when she realised that this time getting to be the pretty best friend involved challenges not quite what she’d been used to.

I caught up with her after the pilot episode screening, and after the most old-people-esque conversation lamenting phones and technology, we got into it… 

Riann, I’ve been following you for a while. Let’s start at the beginning…why acting?

As a kid I was running around as you do, and then you grow up and think, ‘oh what do I want to do with my life?’ I thought I could be a lawyer, or a doctor, I could see myself in the coat, I could see myself in a court room, then when I thought about all those years of studying I realised I didn’t actually want to be a doctor or lawyer, I wanted to pretend to be them.

Who was your inspirational TV doctor or lawyer?

There was no one character. It was just the thought, of you know, carrying books, and having the wig and looking stern and saying ‘no!’ It was playing those roles.

You studied your craft at the renowned Arts Ed drama school in West London…

Yeah I loved Arts Ed. It’s a great school. Andrew Lloyd Webber just donated over 3million to redo their theatre and I know they’re doing more film and television, but they were always top for musical theatre. To be really honest I didn’t audition for RADA, I grew up in Ealing, west London, and I just assumed RADA was for rich white people. But I’d never ever do that again. I’d tell anyone, aim for top. I didn’t. I auditioned for LAMDA and I got a 3rd recall, but I was really nervous. Then Arts Ed accepted me and though it wasn’t my first choice it was the best thing for me. Things happen the way they’re supposed to happen.

So you’ve done drama school, graduated, the next logical step would be get a theatre job?

Yes I went straight into the RSC, that was amazing. I was at Arts Ed, and I was in some sort of competition where they nominated me and a guy and girl from our year and I remember doing this audition for the RSC; Gregory Doran was great and the RSC is brilliant for getting unknowns in. I was there for two years.

When did you drop your insecurities about who you were going into this industry?

Through the three years of training. I mean it’s still a process. This [Crazyhead] is rare for me. Two black leads and a black guy supporting! I live in New York now; I left about two years ago.

Did you leave because of a lack of roles? That would be surprising there’s the assumption that you being a good looking woman of mixed raced heritage fits the image of success in the industry, especially the requirements for black women. Your journey should have been easier…

Crazyhead: Episode 1 -  CAST:  Riann Steele as Suzanne

Crazyhead: Episode 1 – CAST: Riann Steele as Suzanne

See this is the problem. You grow up and this is the skin you’re in, but then it’s, ‘why do they treat me differently?’ Being mixed, you’re really not accepted by either, and people assume that you’re light-skinned so you have a much easier time. But no. Now I live in America, they talk about passing. A lot. So I get, ‘you’re almost white’ … This role is great for me because people assume, you’re the light skinned pretty friend. But no, God put soil on me, let me come out of the ground…

Does this mean you feel like you have something to prove, to challenge the box you’ve been put in?

I don’t get these parts. I play the pretty friend on the arm of a guy. I actually auditioned for the role of Amy and then they came back and said they’d cast her already but were interested in looking at me for her best friend. I’m not going to lie, my first reaction was, ‘I’m always the friend’. But then I read the script and loved her.

What jumped out at you about Suzanne?

All the stuff that happens to her, she gets possessed, she… [Riann says more but TBB doesn’t do spoilers] … So that was fun. Being two hours in make-up and getting more and more dishevelled by the end of it. I didn’t wash my hair for about a week. So I felt bad that when I read the script I judged it, because I’m just so used to it.

Have you worked with the other girls before, or met them?

I randomly saw Susie [Wokoma] in New York she was in a Henry IV play, and there was an Equity party. I kind of was watching Downton Abbey, so I vaguely remembered Cara in it. So first day on set was our actual first introduction. The first scene we did was the exorcism which was a great bonding session.

I find some British shows don’t do well with natural fluidity and chemistry between characters, yet Crazyhead ticks all those boxes and when comparing it to a good American show… How do you get to the point of losing all inhibition and a bit of that what I see as stiff-Britishness?

I think it really goes down to the writing, the directing as well; the directing makes it very safe, but the way Howard writes, it just jumps off the page. You instantly say I know this person. I’ve had scripts where it’s been hard work, where I’ve had to really put two and two together, and do a lot to it to make those things up in your head, or you have those long conversations with the director – so what’s the vision, where are you going?  Al [Mackay] the director is a brilliant catch. He comes from a real Indie background; really loves horror movies. There’s an amazing shot where you just see Cara’s eye in the bowling alley when she’s hiding, and those touches are Al. The way he would direct us, you would instantly have a clear vision of what he wanted and you’re willing to do whatever. He’s trustworthy. I had to wear these big heavy chain, they could have given me the lighter chains, but I thought I know that if my character is as dangerous as they say she was then I need to have the heavier chains, I had bruises by the end of it but it’s because Al would talk through it you automatically want to do it. There are some jobs that you do that you stay in your trailer and come out, but when you work on a project where everyone gets on, everyone is happy, everyone is excited to turn up…

Are you a fan of horror and fantasy?

Yes. Fan. I’m also a big scaredy cat. I can’t watch horror without having my hands over my face, or turning the music down. I believe in ghosts; I’m scared of the dark… This was fun, but the research part of it, I couldn’t sleep for three days.

Is this the role you’ve been waiting for?

I think so.

There’s a bit of irony that you moved to New York to find more opportunities, but you end up back here…

I think that’s what you have to do though. I was born In New York, but grew up here. I always wanted to return to my roots, I’m a Brooklyn girl, but then I had a career here and people know you. I never really wanted to do the LA thing, unless to be in something amazing. Somebody told me that quote by Einstein – the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. I realised that I wanted this industry to give me something different, I’m frustrated with it so I needed to change it. It’s like not booking a holiday because you might get a job, you can’t do that. You have to live. So it was a great experience in New York.

Did you find work in New York?

That’s the other thing, I’ve jumped into an ocean, but I’ve been very close. There’ve been a couple of pilots where it’s been between me and someone else but it didn’t quite go my way and I auditioned for this from New York. I sent quite a few tapes, then they flew me over to audition. But I do think things are changing here. Act for Change started a big thing. Shows like this. I did another film called Powder Room, which was directed by a woman. That’s where you feel things are changing. It’s not only the diversity side of things it’s the female led stories. Not being, oh my boyfriend…

What’s next?

I’m going back to New York, and if this gets picked up for a second series…I’ll be back.

Crazyhead Starts Wednesday 19th October on E4 at 9pm

Find out more about the series:

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