TBB Talks to … Tavie Agama, Director of ‘Women of the Market’

Please introduce yourself …

I’m Tavie Agama and I’m the director of Women of the Market.

Why Women of The Market?

The women of the market are special to me as I grew up visiting the market. When I was younger, me and my mum used to go every week to buy ingredients for Nigerian dishes – because I’m Nigerian – and we would buy fabric to make traditional Nigerian clothes and we would even have the clothes made as well, so the market and the traders there have always felt like a connection to my home country. So I wanted to celebrate them because I know that they are that connection for other people as well.

Just their presence in the shops – not just the physical produce or the tangible things that you can get from the market, but also the feeling that you get from being in their shop or outside their stall. When you hear them speaking to their customers in their language, or you hear people around you speaking in their language, when you hear Nigerian music, then you feel that connection to home as well. So I wanted to celebrate that, celebrate what it is they do for their community and spotlight them.

Tell us about your team …

I had an amazing team, everyone played a significant part in making the idea of the film a reality, everyone was amazing, but just to tell you about a few of them … There was Fede Alfonso who was the Director of Photography and he is probably the most energetic and spirited person I’ve ever met, and ever will meet! He had so much passion and he came to the project with so much excitement. As soon as he came on board he just went above and beyond, he even visited the market on days where we weren’t filming, so yeah, I’m very grateful to him.

Then there’s Cass and Charlie who were the producer and production manager, and they’ve been the organisers. They kept everyone going, kept me motivated and grounded, and have just been the voices of calm in stressful times and I couldn’t have done it without them. I feel like this is an acceptance speech! I don’t want to leave anyone out!

There’s AK, who was the assistant director, and he was honestly just a saving grace, he’s an amazing guy. Often, and I’m not naming names, but a lot of assistant directors can do their job by shouting at people, which is sometimes necessary but not always needed, and AK does his work with a smile and just makes everyone feel comfortable, everyone around him is smiling as well, so he was amazing to work with. And just one more that I need to mention – a friend of mine, David Joseph, who helped out in the early stages. So when I was applying for the fund I called him up at the second stage of the application process when I needed to make a pitch video. He even came down to Ridley Road with me and we spoke to some of the market women together. So he was great, and for the actual shoot he helped out as a runner as well.

What’s the story for you?

I think Women of the Market, I would say, it’s a story about women who provide a connection to home for so many people, and it’s about more than just the produce that they sell, there’s more to it than what initially meets the eye. These women really they’re selling memories, they’re selling comfort, they sell nostalgia – it’s the feeling that’s created when you see the things that resemble your home country. That’s what the women are providing for so many people who live here in the UK from other places in the world like Africa, the Caribbean, Asia. Also, the story is just about the worlds that exist in the market, and I say worlds because that’s what you’re experiencing. When you go down to the market, there are so many different countries and cultures, there’s people speaking Patois and Arabic, there’s women wearing hijabs and Ankara – traditional African clothing. The market is so many different worlds colliding and so many characters that come together that make the market the special place that it is.

Ameya John-Lewis, owner of Ameya World, Edmonton Green Market – Women of the Market (2022)

Tell us a memorable moment from idea to final edit?

I guess saying goodbye to all of the contributors was memorable and emotional but one, in particular, was Ameya the fabric trader. On the day after we wrapped filming in Edmonton Green, saying bye to her was an emotional experience.
I should explain, that we really took our time in building the relationship with each contributor, with each woman, so even just to get them on board we had to approach them a few times to tell them about the film because they are extremely humble women, they’re hardworking, and they are not the kind of people who would necessarily jump at the chance to be in front of the camera, so it definitely took a while to build up relationships and build up trust with each of them. It’s important to have trust between the people in front of and behind the camera; you can see it on screen, so I’m glad that we had the opportunity to do that.

By the time we were shooting I felt like I knew them so well and vice versa. There were times when we were shooting with Ameya she would look at me and she would tell me ‘you really need to get some more sleep’. It’s like – how do you know me so well? So when we did finish shooting on the final day with Amaya and we were saying goodbye I just felt so thankful for her allowing us to tell her story and allowing us into her world, and when she was saying bye she was saying how thankful she was that her story was being told, and we both got a bit teary-eyed – so that is a memorable moment.

Share a skill-defining moment making this film?

If the skill is film-making or directing then the skill-defining moment would be when we wrapped everything – so on the final day when we finished filming. I sat down with the crew who are also some of my friends and we looked back on three days of shooting, and I think that’s when it finally dawned on me that we’d done it and I’d made a film – and all of the planning and the preparation and the explaining or describing my vision to people for months and months had finally come into fruition – I’ve done it – I’ve directed a film! I knew that this is what I wanted to do but now I’ve done it, I want to do it again; I want to keep doing it.

What does being a recipient of the 2021 Netflix Documentary Talent Fund means to you?

It means so much. It’s the opportunity to tell the stories that I feel need to be told and need to be celebrated and spotlighted, and it means growth and experience, and learning. When you’re still new to filmmaking and you’re thrown into the deep end in the best way possible, all you can do is learn and grow and I definitely feel like I’ve seen that in myself, I’ve seen growth and I’ve learned so much, so that’s what it means to me.

What’s next for you?

I am just passionate about storytelling, so any other story that comes along that I feel passionate about and I feel that I’d be best suited to tell from behind the camera, then I would jump at the opportunity. I am working on another documentary about young black fathers and celebrating the love and joy and softness that exists between young black fathers and their sons because it’s something that we so rarely see on screen. That’s been extremely fulfilling. Moving forward, I’d love to focus on music videos – you can let your imagination run wild a lot more with music videos, more than documentaries, and then hopefully some branded content in the future and also further in the future some narrative film work as well.


Women of the Market

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