TIFF Flashback: Farming
By Nabeela Damji
Based on writer and director Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's real life experience, Farming is the true story of a troubled teenager who finds acceptance in the most horrific way possible.
The films title, refers to the policy the 1960’s and 1970’s where Nigerian parents would “farm out” their newborns to white foster parents. Sometimes this would happen for years at a time, often paying for childcare as they concentrated on their studies or new careers.
© Film Threat | YouTube
Akinnuoye-Agbaje was six weeks old when his parents placed him with a white couple in Tilbury, a blue-collar town east of London. He lived with up to 10 other African children in a cramped house. And while his foster parents were loving, they were also sometimes cruel. Akinnuoye-Agbaje shot the film in the actual Tilbury home where he was raised.
His character, Enitan(Zephan Amissah), is an introverted young boy who spends more time behind the couch talking to his imaginary friends, than anything else. He is often the subject of harsh criticism and tough love from his foster mother Ingrid (Kate Beckinsale) and her husband Jack (Lee Ross). Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood life isn’t so easy for Enitan, who is constantly subject to racist abuse at school.
One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the film is when young Enitan goes to the bathroom and tries to scrub his skin with a brush to make it lighter, even after putting talcum powder on his face and going to school as a “white” boy. One day, Enitan’s parents suddenly reappear and take him back to Nigeria. After six months of not talking to anyone, and beating up various teachers, Enitan is sent back to his foster parents in a hurry.
Watch the Cast and Crew of Farming here:
© Deadline Hollywood | YouTube
In his teens, Enitan (Damson Idris) is targeted by Tilbury skinheads, led by Levi (John Dagliesh). Levi adopts him into the gang dehumanizing him with mental and physical torture, eventually forcing him to join attacks against black victims, including his own bi-racial teacher (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Despite Ingrid and Enitan’s teacher’s actions to force him onto a better path, things get progressively worse. Enitan is now a full-blown skinhead, who embraces the violent lifestyle with such force. Its astonishing to see such a confusing transformation.
The film itself is so heavy, however the music choices and the action made this film a success rather a boring mess. The story itself is hard to believe, but as it progresses it only gets better.
Farming is a film that is worth seeing. It’s real life premise is so hard to believe, you can’t help but be engaged. The films directing and acting is superb, and it is a unique film with a heavy storyline that will easily become one of your favorites.
*Editor’s Note: Farming as screened at the Toronto International Film Festival ‘18