The directorial feature debut by Destiny Ekaragha is based on the stage play by Bola Agbaje and stars newcomers Malachi Kirby and O.C. Ukeje. Screen visits the film set to find out more about the project and its origin.
Shooting just wrapped on the UK comedy, which is one of the first films to be supported by the British Film Institute’s newly established Film Forever plan. Based on the Olivier Award winning play by playwright Bola Agbaje, who also wrote the screenplay, the comedy follows two estranged teenage brothers, who grew up in London and Nigeria respectively, over the course of a single day as they meet for the first time and struggle to accept each other for who they are.
When arriving at the East London set on a chilly November morning, the familial atmosphere among the cast and crew is instantly noticeable. Unsurprisingly the four-week shoot went smoothly with only a handful of minor incidents, such as one of the cast members having to be replaced after falling ill with chicken pox, which also required re-shooting some scenes.
Younger brother Yemi is played by rising star Malachi Kirby (My Brother the Devil, BBC3’s My Murder). Kirby says he was attracted to the role because “I wanted to do Bola’s work for the longest time and I have seen and love all her plays, so when they called me in [for a reading at the Royal Court Theatre] for this I didn’t even need to check it out”.
For the role of his Yoruba-speaking brother, Ikudayisi, Agbaje and Destiny Ekaragha were adamant to cast someone from Nigeria. “We knew from the beginning we wanted to keep it authentic because there’s nothing worse than seeing a Nigerian on-screen who isn’t really Nigerian,” says Ekaragha. Up-and-coming Nollywood actor O.C. Ukeje was recommended to them and after auditioning him over Skype he came on board.
Despite struggling with the cold, Ukeje is complimentary of the shoot in the UK. “Everyone was very welcoming and everything is done as professionally as possible, there’s a call sheet, a schedule. In Nigeria you just shoot until it’s done. And [in Nigeria] everyone knows how to get into a guerrilla mood when necessary.”
Director Ekaragha (Tight Jeans, The Park), who saw the play in 2008 at the Royal Court Theatre, immediately fell in love with the story. “It was talking about stuff that happened when I was a kid. My parents are Nigerian and I’m second generation, and Yemi’s character is more or less like myself, but also all the stuff that comes along like all the prejudices against being African. That’s the world I grew up with and it was a world that I’ve never seen portrayed on stage or film before.” So when Bradley Quirk of the now defunct UK Film Council sent her the script she didn’t hesitate.
While the remainder of the cast also fell into place naturally, the process from adapting the play to starting production last month (October 22) took about three years.
Going down the conventional route to obtain financing didn’t prove successful as producer Christopher Granier-Deferre of Poisson Rouge Pictures explains. “I think the market isn’t used to seeing a film about young black kids that doesn’t involve knives, guns and hoodies,” he says. Ekaragha echoes this: “A lot of people found it [Gone Too Far] difficult to place. If it’s not guns or knives then what is it? They had difficulty putting it into a box.” Thus, suggestions to change the nature of the film ranged from making it more musical to adding violence.
However, as the UKFC started developing Gone Too Far, the BFI carried on working on the development of the film and was very keen to get it made. Granier-Deferre says that working with the BFI went very smoothly. “They’ve been very supportive the whole way, they wanted to make it happen,” he adds.
Gone Too Far is now in post-production with a release planned for autumn next year.