How BAFTA Nominee ‘Rocks’ Captures Black Girls Coming of Age


Forward of its 8 BAFTA nominations, “Rocks” lead its creators to instigate exchange around the trade.

Whilst the British coming-of-age tale “Rocks” hasn’t been part of the Oscar season dialog, the BAFTAs are a special tale. The film is nominated for 8 awards at this Sunday’s rite, and has been to be had on Netflix since previous this 12 months. Even supposing directed via Sarah Gavron (“Suffragette”), the important thing figures in the back of this acclaimed venture is British-Nigerian playwright and screenwriter Theresa Ikoko.

Ikoko co-wrote the script, her first, with seasoned scribe Claire Wilson, and the pair are every nominated for BAFTAs in Exceptional Debut and Authentic Screenplay.

Praised at house and in another country for its truthful remedy of sisterhood amongst teenage women of colour, the movie follows a British-Nigerian adolescent nicknamed Rocks (Bukky Bakray) pressured to tackle grownup preoccupations when her mom abruptly abandons her and her more youthful brother. Amid such precarious cases, she reveals encouragement and affection in her team of unswerving girlfriends. Previous this 12 months, “Rocks” received the highest prize on the British Impartial Movie Awards, in addition to trophies for 2 of its supporting stars, Kosar Ali and D’angelou Osei Kissiedu.

“Rocks” began with a easy conceit: Myth Photos manufacturer Faye Ward was once looking to empower feminine voices to inform a tale a couple of woman in London these days. There was once no additional idea or premise; the manufacturing sought after to create the venture from the bottom up. Ward ultimately enlisted Ikoko after seeing her play “Women,” and coupled her with Wilson, with whom Ward had up to now collaborated over a decade in the past on a venture that was once optioned however by no means were given made.

The group of writers and casting administrators spending time at colleges and early life golf equipment to satisfy teenage women from all backgrounds. “We have been simply doing workshops and speaking about girlhood, what it’s so that you can be a lady, to be a tender girl, to be a woman, sharing our reviews,” stated Ikoko.

The casting group to begin with met with round 1,500 younger girls, winnowing down an inventory of 60 finalists for Ikoko, Wilson, and Gavron to imagine. As they narrowed that checklist additional, Ikoko recalled that all the way through that duration applicants have been repeatedly leaving the workshop the manufacturing had set as much as in finding the forged. “Because it was once this sort of lengthy time period, other folks have been chucking up the sponge and clearly discovering different commitments and different pursuits,” stated Ikoko. After 9 months, the overall team was once shaped.

Knowledgeable via the ladies’ enter, Ikoko and Wilson started working on a tale. Then again, they felt that first draft didn’t seize the magic they have been experiencing as a collective. Fortunately, a 12 months previous to “Rocks,” Ikoko have been running one after the other on any other piece impressed via her reviews rising up in a British-Nigerian family that in a similar fashion handled the restorative energy of sisterhood. As “Rocks” was once taking form, she determined to suggest that tale because the vessel to make use of the younger ability they’d discovered. The result’s an amalgamation of Ikoko’s non-public perception, Wilson’s experience and tackle feminine friendship, and the forged’s early enter and eventual interpretation of the following script, which left room for improvisation.

“I learn the description to Claire and Sarah and so they instantly concept it was once absolute best,” Ikoko stated. “There have been moments and issues that have been added to the characters so as to give the ladies possession… It was once the ones issues that they felt like they hadn’t noticed prior to and sought after to constitute for his or her communities.”

Ikoko stated she knew the venture was once on the right track when she learned that the first-time performers, none of whom knew every different previously, have been cultivating actual friendships off-camera. “I don’t know if I’m being too sappy and nostalgic, however I imagine they’ll be buddies endlessly,” Ikoko stated.

The pair was once all in favour of fending off clichés. “We didn’t need to make the tale hinge on a romantic dating, which just about each and every feminine coming-of-age tale hinges on, whether or not it’s with a boy or with a woman,” stated Wilson. “There’s at all times that part that claims, ‘That is what it’s to be a lady, you might be outlined via love.’ It was once truly loosening to take that away and simply let children be children, but additionally, let’s take a look at the friendships, which might be truly vital, particularly at that age.”

In flip, running on “Rocks” was once a life-changing enterprise for Wilson, who’s lately the showrunner on Amazon Studio’ upcoming sci-fi display “The Energy,” since the staff was once 75-percent girls; their bond permeated the entirety on display and in the back of the scenes. “Being round that many ladies seeking to do one thing in combination was once particular. It was once difficult clearly, however it additionally gave us a voice on this trade,” Wilson stated. “Up till that time, I hadn’t been in that area prior to, you ceaselessly don’t understand how a lot you’ve been suppressing your self till you might be given area to open up.”

Early on, Ikoko determined she sought after Bakray to play the lead, so she and Wilson tweaked sides in their primary personality to suit the section. The younger celebrity is now additionally nominated for a BAFTA for Best possible Actress in a Main Function. “She brings this gorgeous, chaotic, pleased power to a room,” stated Ikoko.

Even supposing “Rocks” offers with parental abandonment, Ikoko stated she sought after to inject the tale with an uplifting vibe. Ikoko herself grew up in a council property, England’s model of low source of revenue housing, however her recollections aren’t marked with tragedy however the time spent with family members. Her need to keep away from the trimmings of “poverty porn” ended in a focal point at the universality at the characters’ childlike view of the sector round them.

“The entire movie was once having a look on the adultization of Black and brown women and the way we take a look at them,” Ikoko stated. “Research display that they’re handled very another way via courtroom techniques, via police, via academics, even via circle of relatives and group. We take a look at Black and brown women, now not as youngsters, however as adults. And subsequently we give them such accountability and they’re unfairly pressured and punished disproportionately punished in colleges as a result of we see them as grownups and Bukky is that woman who does look like older and wiser than she is.”

That venture didn’t simply manifest as a part of her storytelling, however has been inherent to her paintings even prior to coming into the leisure trade. Ikoko graduated from Oxford with a grasp’s in prison justice and went directly to paintings in early life and group problems. Writing was once a zeal that she nurtured at the aspect. She saved her day process all the way through the writing and manufacturing of “Rocks;” she ceaselessly discovered alternatives inside her day to be provide on set to provide notes or even block scenes. But if her supervisor couldn’t give her time without work to wait the film’s TIFF premiere, she hand over.

“I cherished my process and I took the accountability of constructing the sector higher for younger other folks severely,” Ikoko stated. “So whilst I used to be confronted with doubtlessly at some point leaving that place, I sought after to create an area within the trade that will imply that I may doubtlessly have an affect the similar manner I felt like I used to be having each day in that process.”

Theresa Ikoko attends the "Rocks" UK Premiere during the 63rd BFI London Film Festival at the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square in London. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Theresa Ikoko attends the “Rocks” UK premiere

Sipa USA by way of AP

To that finish, “Rocks” was once constructed at the identical inclusive spirit that its tale represents. Ikoko believes since authorship for a very long time have belonged to white middle-class storytellers, the inventive dynamic had to be other on this venture, in particular in a tale that was once predominantly a couple of Black British woman. In the event that they hadn’t disbursed authority and possession, the movie would have change into a part of the issue, much more so for the reason that outsiders would query the director being a white girl.

“I didn’t understand the hierarchical construction of movie prior to we were given to the tip of manufacturing,” Ikoko stated. “We labored truly exhausting to make it transparent that this was once a movie made via many of us and to decolonize authorship and tale possession. Everybody, together with Sarah, has attempted to switch the narrative and proportion energy between the many of us that held this movie up.”

Off the again of “Rocks,” Ikoko and others within the manufacturing established a company referred to as BRIDGE so as to strengthen rising ability in developing sustainable careers in leisure, in addition to offering help to communities and colleges to make arts and tradition extra obtainable for younger other folks to freely take part in life-changing reviews.

“We would have liked ‘Rocks’ to be impactful on display, however we additionally sought after it to be impactful within the trade, in the back of the scenes, and to exhibit that you’ll give autonomy and authority and possession to storytellers that glance other and we’re now not dangers,” Ikoko stated. “We don’t handiest want strengthen. We want area.”

“Rocks” is now streaming on Netflix.

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