In October 2021, famed British actor John Boyega united with Converse to set up the Create Next Film Project, an initiative that aimed to shine a light on five up-and-coming Black filmmakers.
The project came as part of Converse’s All Star Program, which launched in 2017, and was a natural continuation of John’s work in recognising the necessity in bringing Black filmmaking talent to the forefront. The Create Next Film Project was launched by the star on the backend of his concentrated work with local schools in Southwark. Born and raised in Peckham, South East London, John is all-too-familiar with the frustration of trying to make something from pretty much nothing, especially in an industry dominated by white faces and a lack of representation. Aiming to set up a project to help youths from similar backgrounds, he considered the routes in which he wanted to take it, acknowledging constraints of finances, access and such to make it possible.
The unification of Converse’s community-focused ecosystem of mentorship and financial backing combined with John Boyega’s participation as a mentor provided the filmmakers the opportunity to write, direct and produce their own short films. These included Kemi Anna Adeeko’s Stuck, Ade Femzo’s Drop Out, Lorraine Khamali’s Zig Zag, Ibrahim Muhammad’s Only Child and The Healer by Kaylen Francis.
The fruitful work of the Create Next Film Project and its gifted filmmakers came to light on Tuesday (April 12) at the London premiere, which included a spread of Q&As with the filmmakers and John Boyega, as well as the unveiling of the five films for an audience containing their family, friends, and eager attendees compelled to see the project’s results. It also included a gathering of alumni from the Converse All Star Program, flying in from all over for this celebratory event.
Before the premiere, John was interviewed by TV and radio host Julie Adenuga—an insightful conversation that went out to people streaming around the world, and one that inspired him to ruminate on his whole journey. John highlighted Attack The Block as an important moment for him, due to the fact it was his first big acting role but also recognising that there could be more of this in the UK. One of the most interesting talking points of the night was on representation, and what that means for John. His response to that? Hire more set designers, dialogue coaches, hair stylists and makeup artists from diverse backgrounds so that actors can really bring their characters to life.
Julie also had the chance to speak to the stars of the night, the five filmmakers that built their captivating shorts, before the viewings. With each film introduced by the filmmakers, those in attendance got to witness their unique styles and stories as a result of John’s mentorship and provisions made by Converse.
Lorraine Khamali’s Zig Zag is a poignant film that epitomises nostalgia and captures a beautiful moment of time. It follows a boy smitten by a cassette tape and player—broken, yet wondering as much as the audience who stargazed into the proud accent of the film. Packed with wonderful styles, parading Black hair, vibrancy and soul, this film took me back to John’s words about the importance of having diverse creatives working behind the scenes.
Ibrahim Muhammad’s Only Child captures a disjointed, mourning family in a hospital hallway. Tortured by the errors of a wantaway father, who tries to smooth over a turbulent relationship with his daughter, the film depicts a sadness that Ibrahim’s writing is all too familiar with but aims to reconcile the damaged relationship through dialogue.
Kemi Anna Adeeko’s Stuck is an uncomfortable watch, but it finds a way to entrance the crowd with comedy. It’s a short about a Nigerian family arriving in England, stuck in a cafe, waiting and attempting to hail a cab. Through the lens of a small girl in the midsts of her debating parents, the laughs the film induces reduces the unease of evident discrimination.
Kaylen Francis’ The Healer is an entry straight from his mind, which felt inclined to picture a superhero from London. “Imagine some Black British Avengers, or something like that,” he asked the audience when asked about his film, one that scopes the vulnerability on the onboarding of others’ pain, about a superhero discarded by society as a vigilante chased by authority.
Ade Femzo’s Drop Out is a story about an aspiring musician ready to drop out of university after going viral with a music video. Considering how to tell his Nigerian mother—a strong, God-fearing woman—who he intends to drop out for the sake of an instantly gratifying career, the sheer amount of ideas make this a truly hilarious short.
For more information on the Create Next Film Project, head here.