Meet dynamic duo, female power houses Bola Agbaje and Destiny Ekaragha the brains behind coming of age comedy film ‘Gone Too Far’. Officially hitting cinemas today 10th October, ‘Gone Too Far’ is the comedy we’ve all been waiting for. Tackling some interesting themes, with serious elements but more entertainingly some serious laugh out loud moments – you’ll be laughing from start to finish.
Gone Too Far follows two estranged teenage brothers over the course of a single day as they meet for the first time, and struggle to accept each other for who they are. Yemi can’t wait for his big brother to join him on the estate in Peckham – but when Ikudayisi arrives from Nigeria wearing socks and sandals Yemi questions both his judgement and his African heritage. A day on the estate filled with danger and excitement teaches both of them the values of family and self respect.
I caught up with both lovely ladies to get a scoop on the whole move-making process, the art of making films and what we can expect from them next.So far they’ve been enjoying the reception of their film, the reviews and overwhelming level of support thrown their way, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be among those supporting these two ladies as soon as you’ve watched the film.
Tell us a bit about yourselves….
Bola: My name’s Bola Agbaje, I’m a playwright and screenwriter. I started writing [seriously] in 2006 and my first play was ‘Gone Too Far’ which was at The Royal Court Theatre from February 2007.
Destiny: My name’s Destiny, I’m a film-maker, writer-director more specifically. I’ve been making short films since 2007/2008 and now here I am.
Tell us a bit about Gone Too Far…
Bola: Gone Too Far is a film about two brothers from two different continents, Yemi who grew up in Peckham and his brother who grew up in Nigeria. His brother Ikudayisi comes to London to live with him but he’s not what he expected. The film follows them as they go to Peckham to go buy Okra for their mum. It’s a coming of age story as Yemi tries to figure out who he is and what he stands for.
How did the idea of getting Gone Too Far the play turned into a movie and consequently getting you two ladies on the project together?
Bola: Originally the idea was a play, so the process of turning it into a film wasn’t too hard, the words and dialogue were already there. I got to play around with genres, people area lot more understanding of genres in plays and crossing boundaries whereas with film if it’s a comedy it needs to be a comedy. If it’s a drama it needs to be a drama. So I made a conscious decision to make it [Gone Too Far] a comedy. They’re both of the same name but they have two different feels to it and a different energy to it.
Destiny: I’d actually already seen Gone Too Far as a play back in 2007 and loved it so when I got the script I jumped at the opportunity. It was actually given to me by an industry friend who thought we would gel well and we did, because the script had a similar tone to what I would have in my own work. And when I met Bola we just gelled, we worked really well together, knowing our boundaries and knowing what we both wanted which made working together really enjoyable and easy.
What was the process like of transitioning Gone Too Far from stage to screen?
Bola: It was a difficult process, but in terms of writing all I had to do was learn that I needed to tell a story visually, in theatre you can get away with having characters speaking loads of dialogue and being on stage for half an hour talking. In film you can’t get away with that because you need to keep people’s attention span. It was nice because I grew up in Peckham and it was easy for me to visualize and bring to life that world, I know the smell of the world – on stage you can’t recreate those worlds unless you had a massive big budget stage play, most of the time your background and set is very simple because you have the actors having to navigate around it, so the audience have to imagine those worlds whereas with film you present the world to the audience, so you’re able to place your characters back into their world and it was just about learning how to tell a story visually and learning when to rely on what’s telling the story is their behaviours and what they’re doing not necessarily what they are saying.
The hardest task was trying to get the film made really, because making a movie in England is a hard process anyway and it’s an expensive risky business and unfortunately we don’t do that many black people’s movies in England. It’s weird because we’re not the first to do it, but sometimes the battle feels like you’re the first to do it. People are so afraid to take that risk; like there’s not that may unknown black actors – maybe not in the mainstream but in the underground scene there are loads of them. Like with the actors in our film they are know but maybe to the wider audience, people don’t know who they are. That was our battle, presenting a film that has predominately black people in it, it’s set in Peckham….lucky for us we had the BFI backing us and the BFI is the British Film Institute which is amazing, because they give film makers the opportunity to film because without them we wouldn’t have made this film because nobody else wanted to give us money.
Destiny: I didn’t try to make a film or look at it as a play that we were turning into a film. I approached it with freshness, the script is different to that of the stage play, it had a different feel and we were telling a different story. Me and Bola understood each other and knew our roles, respecting and understanding that she’s the writer and I’m the director. It’s her vision that we brought to life and respected that. She was great to work with and if ever there were creative suggestions we worked thorugh them together, she’d explain why she’d want somethign a certain way and we’d be on the same page and vice-versa. It was a great experience, with the cast and crew too who we wouldn’t have been able to make the film without.
Quite a lot of themes were explored, the idea of belonging, black-on-black ‘racism’ pe se…
Bola: It was from my own experience, I grew up in the ’80s, Peckham in the ’80s well to be black wasn’t the coolest thing. The images that you had about Africa were about starving people with flies on their faces, so to come to school with an African accent, you know it just wasn’t cool. In that times there weren’t a lot of Nigerians in the UK so when you’re a small minority it’s easy for people to pick on you. For me growing up that was a major experience and impact on my childhood, in terms of not knowing that it was okay to be Nigerian and not being ashamed of it. Growing up and then realizing okay I should never have been ashamed of it, there is nothing wrong with me being Nigerian. I had a shared experience with so many other people who were in the same boat as me as well. There’s been a massive shift, it’s changed now the more years go on and the more multicultural we get the more that issue like being from the Caribbean and being separate and you’re from Nigeria and being separate is different, because we integrate so much now. My younger sister who’s 20, her experience is so different to mine as Nigerian becuase the internet has made the world so small as well, so in terms of music and dance and culture there is a kind of worldliness that everyone shares now and so a lot of young Africans I know now don’t understand what it was like in the ’80s. But the reason I wanted to explore that theme in the play and in the film is because it was something that I felt impacts on people’s identity and who you are. I feel like when you you don’t know who you are you go about life making the wrong choices,. Some people look at it and think it’ a little bit dated, some west indies have been offended because they go well we’re not all the same, that’s not how it is, that’s changed now. My argument to that is that firstly this is the first black film that’s come out in maybe four years and each person is watching it thinking they have to identify with every single character that ‘represents’ them, If there were more black films and TV shows we’d have a choice of who we can identify with and we wouldn’t be offended and asking what are they trying to say about me.
Touched on the light skin vs dark skin debate…
Bola: It was a conscious decision. I grew up watching the Cosby Show, looking at and identifying with Ruby Huxtable, she was young dark skin and same age as me. I come from a Nigerian family where we’re all dark skin in my family. The debate about light skin dark skin didn’t hit me until I got to college. It wasn’t something that affected me as much, I just felt that there were these debates about skin time or shadism because we’re all black, so it doesn’t matter if ones light and ones dark.
What I wanted to as well is, I never liked the fact that in film or in TV programmes you had the light skin character who is always the sweet angelic one then you have the dark skin side-kick friend who is the aggressor, who was the loud mouth the one that nobody likes. There were so many played out stereotypes about a dark skin woman that I didn’t like, so in the film I wanted to switch that . Well actually I know girls who were like Armani who were very mean girls, so I wanted to explore that narrative and show that we don’t all fit one stereotype.
Why was the film all based on one day?
Bola: Originally in the play I set it in one day because honestly it was the easiest thing to do [laughs] but not only that, the idea of the play came from when I wrote a short piece and mostly memories of my brother; where I lived the corner shop was across the road from us, my brother everyday after school would always say ‘I’m going to the shop’ and he would leave the house at like 3.45pm and not come back til like 10pm at night, and my mum would go out to look for him – we’d all go out to search for him. His whole reason for leaving would be I’m going to the shop and lots of stuff would always happen between the time he went to the shop and came back and I always thought that was so fascinating in the sense that you go but to go and get something but lots of stuff could happen in between. Playwriting and studying film you understand that both are about a journey, a quest and about a characters growth and journey of trying to get something. So I thought it would be a nice journey if these characters go out to get something and then life happens in the process and life got in the way – and that’s how it happened. Part of Yemi’s journey is that he learned so much about himself in that one day, and the thing is that’s how life is.
Destiny: I loved that the film was based all in one day. The message being that; your life could change in one day. You get to see the main character’s journey and it’s beautifully packaged into one day. Of course from a directorial point of view it was hard work keeping up continuity and making sure that even though we shot the film over four and a half weeks that it still looked like the same day. being in England we had to deal with weather changes you know one minute it’s like being in the tropics to then being in Antarctica which obviously hindered our time frame, but it worked out.
How did you feel finally seeing the film on the screen?
Bola: Oh God, I’m living the dream right now, like someone said once that you get so excited when you see a poster, when you see this…don’t you ever stop getting excited. The truth is I came from Peckham, it’s the weirdest thing, my parents have alwasys instilled in me dream and do what you want, society doesn’t really enable you to. when your dreams become a reality it’s such a great feeling and it doesn’t feel real; ‘Is this really meant to happen? Is it happening?’ and every time I see my work on the screen, the feeling of excitement doesn’t go away and I don’t think it is going to go away.
What can we expect from you next?
Bola: Yes! I’m working on a web-series with Destiny. I have a production company called TooFar Media and we’re creating our own online content, and we’re in the middle of creating very short series called Hot Pepper which will be coming online end of October.
Destiny: Gone Too Far 2 which will be set in Nigeria this time. I’m also working on a comedy web-series with Bola called ‘Hot Pepper’. I’m also working on another feature film – a Zombie movie based in South East London which i’m really excited about1