Joseph A. Adesunloye is a writer and director for film and television with his own film production company, DreamCoat Productions.
A graduate from the University of Aberdeen with a Masters of Arts in English Literature & Film Studies Adesunloye’s debut film White Colour Black was longlisted for Best Debut Screenwriter and Most Promising Newcomer for its lead actor Dudley O’Shaughnessy at the 2017 BIFA Awards.
White Colour Black is about London based photographer – Leke (Shaughnessy) who receives a message to return ‘home‘ to Senegal. Having avoided his past for years, Leke reluctantly leaves his carefree, hedonistic lifestyle behind. Returning to a culture he no longer feels connected to daunting he travels across Senegal to his late Father’s village, the tranquillity of the landscape and warmth of a newfound community encourages Leke to slow down, breath, and embrace life in a whole new way.
Fast forward to 2021 and Adesunloye’s tribute to tradition and culture has regained new interest …
Please introduce yourself …
My name is Joseph a. Adesunloye. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and grew up in London.
What word or sentence best describes your life right now?
Cautiously optimistic / Forward.
White Colour Black had its first screening at BFI London Film Festival over four years ago now. What has it taken so long to share with audiences?
We didn’t get the deal we liked originally so we held the film until we found the best home for it.
How did you come about the idea for White Colour Black; is this story personal to you?
Yes, the core of the story is personal to me as it was loosely based on the death of my father.
Please explain the title White Colour Black and how you came up with it?
When I was young and first came to the UK, a friend asked me why Black people had white palms and I never realised it was different until then. And the second part of the meaning is returning to a space, say Nigeria, Ghana, or Jamaica, and being called a white person or coconut. Something about you just doesn’t fit in their eyes. You have to relearn to belong.
The protagonist Leke is played by boxer turned model turned actor Dudley O’Shaugnessy who did an amazing job embodying a man who has all that he ever dreamed of but yet is so unfulfilled and empty. How did you know that he was right for the role?
I agree, there’s something very special about Dudley. I spoke to him at length about the story and we both found that we trusted each other and we were the right people to go on that journey together.
There is a huge contrast in the way in which Leke expresses himself sexually in London with meaningless escapades, to the way his relationship is displayed with Badewa (the girl from his home village) which seems passionate and caring. Was this deliberate? And in what ways did these differences show the development of the character?
This was very deliberate, as Leke begins to really rediscover himself and find a sense of ‘home‘ again he finds that he doesn’t need all the other stuff in the same way. He’d been struggling to fill a void with superficial relationships and Badewa becomes the first person he had a really strong bond of kinship with. (I have to mention here that Yrsa Daly-Ward did a spectacular job playing both sisters).
When writing the film what was your intentional message?
It was about finding one’s place and rediscovering. And that place needn’t be singular or geographical. Reconciling with yourself and being at peace with it is very important.
White Colour Black also deals with the clash of Western and traditional African culture in this case Senegalese (West African) culture – is this something you have felt yourself growing up in the West and why was it an important narrative for the film?
Absolutely, I found growing up in the UK that my African heritage, identity, and culture weren’t respected or valued and I was never going to let that be the case. We of the global Black diaspora have a history and heritage to be very proud of. The film to a large extent when it leaves these shores is a celebration of what lies on that vast continent with its myriad of cultures.
As a filmmaker what does your creative process look like when developing and coming up with the visuals for your projects?
My process is insular for a large part. But I have references of visual and storytelling styles that speak to me, often from African and East Asian temperaments; and the use of time. I also work very closely with my cinematographer. That’s a very important creative relationship for me.
White Colour Black was your first feature film but you have done so much since, and your work has many accolades including nominations at Raindance Film Festival, BIFAs. How does it feel as an independent filmmaker to gain the recognition you do each and every time you create something?
The most important thing for me is that these allow more people to see and encounter my work because it is very challenging as an
Indie filmmaker for your audience to find you.
What is next for you?
I’m in post for my third feature Breaking Mirrors which was shot in Spain and I have several things in development that I am really hopeful for.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU …
- A book you have to have in your collection? – Spike Lee, That’s My Story And I’m Sticking To It
- A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? – Oumou Sangaré – Djorolen
- A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? – In The Mood For Love / Tokyo Story
- The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you? – Community performance in Nigeria as a child. It meant freedom and dreaming.
- What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? – (Sad, Mad) The race report; (Glad) People calling out its BS.
White Colour Black is available on Peccadillo Pictures