Written and directed by Joseph A. Adesunloye, White Colour Black tells the story of London based photographer Leke (Dudley O’Shaughnessy) that has it all. He’s successful, has no responsibility and women fall at his feet. When a message from Senegal calls him to return ‘home’, he reluctantly leaves his carefree, hedonistic lifestyle behind. We spoke to the writer/director about the project:
How did the film come about?
At the time I was working on another script which I planned on being my debut feature. But some things about it didn’t feel right, so I set it aside. I began to really examine which story I wanted to tell. I settled on the fact that I wanted to look into the notion of belonging and sense of place and that’s how White Colour Black came about.
Is the film in any way based on actual experiences or people you have met?
Yes, the film was inspired by the death of my father who passed away very suddenly a few years ago, in Nigeria. Because I grew up in London I was away from Nigeria for a long time. There was a very strange sense that washes over you when you return ‘home’ for the first time after you’ve left for a while. For me it was that creeping sense of not quite belonging in either space but also being a product of both of them.
What challenges did you come across during filming?
We filmed in Senegal during Ramadan so that presented a set of challenges. But we knew that we needed to film in multiple places across the country, so some of the challenges were around logistics and moving the entire cast and crew from city to city then to the villages as well. It was a lot for us setting up units in all these different places. But the locals were very welcoming, and the team were incredible.
How did you secure funding for the project?
The project was funded entirely through private finance. So, it involved talking to a lot of people and seeing who was willing to come on board.
The casting of the lead role of Leke is pivotal. How did Dudley O’Shaughnessy become involved?
I had cast another actor who I had previously worked with for the role but he became unavailable due to other project commitments. Fortunately, I had met Dudley a couple of years before and we’d wanted to work together, so I reached out to him. I explained the project to him and in that meeting it felt right. Once he got the script, we spent a lot of time together going back and forth over the material because we knew that when the time came the shoot, it was going to be very demanding so we explored as much as we could before we got to Senegal.
The film was completed in 2016. Why has it taken so long to get a release date?
The film’s original Sales agent was able to get distribution for the film in Sub-Saharan Africa and various airlines etc. but we never secured suitable UK and North American distribution. So, when that term was up, we started looking for a good home for the film and Peccadillo stepped in. But it took more than a couple of years from the point where they agreed to distribute it, to it being released. I know that COVID also interrupted the distribution slate last year and things were pushed back a bit because of that as well.
What has the general reaction been towards the film?
Since the film has only really done the festival circuit, I have found that audiences, especially people of colour, have connected with the themes of identity, place and belonging.
What are you working on next?
I am currently in post-production on my new feature film Breaking Mirrors which I shot in Spain during the latter part of 2020. The film stars Yann Gael (Loro, Sakho & Mangane), James Smith (The Favourite, The Thick of It) and Gabriel Winter.
Our thanks to Joseph and Dudley for their time and to Lizzie and Sue at Porterfrith for arranging this interview.
White Colour Black is available from 22nd February on digital.