Fredi Nwaka is an award-winning producer, Writer and Director. No stranger to the arts he started his career as an MC under the pseudonym Kruga or Fredi Kruga. Performing at numerous events and winning music awards he became a notable artist in the UK Hip Hop Scene.
Fredi later went into acting where much like his music career he has done extremely well with appearances in both TV and film. He has worked alongside the likes of Curtis ’50 CENT’ Jackson in the UK gangster film Dead Man Running, The Intent and more recently Sky’s Bullet Proof alongside fellow actor and director Ashley Walters.
Fredi went on to write 7 shorts and three feature films, The Living Dead, She’s The One( Loves Spell – in the US) and now On The Other Foot.
On The Other Foot is about a racist white man who attends the African Church of his daughter’s Black boyfriend to encourage him to embrace her partner’s culture coincidentally on the day of ‘UMBADEHDEH’ – a spiritual ritual where dreams or nightmares can come true … Billy wakes up the next morning inside a black man’s body!
We spoke to Fredi about the film, the Black British experience of racism and how his film can help to bring a ‘legacy of hope and change’ to British society…
Please introduce yourself…
My names Fredi Nwaka and I like to see myself as a triple threat. I write, direct and produce and have done so for all seven shorts and 3 feature films I have made so far. Although born in the UK I am of Nigerian heritage.
Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.
I’m right where I’m supposed to be but looking forward to where I’m about to go.
On The Other Foot depicts a racist taxi driver who miraculously wakes up the next morning in a black person’s body. Why this story? Why now?
After the death of George Floyd and the BLM marches globally, I wanted to do something that would still continue to have an impact long after the marching and chants died down. I created this movie as part of the legacy against change and hope that it will encourage people to look at the way people see colour. I was fostered by a white family in Kent from the age of 3 months old and for many years didn’t even realise ‘black’ was anything. I thought I was white with black skin as I was the only person of colour in the whole town.
The premise of the film is similar to that of 1970’s Watermelon Man directed by legendary filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles. Is this where the inspiration came from?
To be totally honest I had never heard of The Watermelon Man and it was only after my film was complete and the poster went viral that The Watermelon Man was brought to my attention. Having since watched it, the premise is similar although my take is obviously more relatable to London life and my own experiences. It’s an honour for it to even be compared. Great minds think alike.
In your opinion what are the differences between how British & American black people experience racism? And as a filmmaker how did you navigate how to make the experience relatable to a global audience?
Racism is a global illness and not specific to any one place. It’s hard to compare what goes on in both places but being that the US is a much bigger space with completely different laws, they appear to experience things on a much greater scale. That being said, many of the experiences had by black people in both places are the same and therefore creating a relatable film was easy. I think that EVERY black person will have experienced at least one of the scenarios I have identified in On The Other Foot or at least know someone who has.
Why did you choose to make this a satirical film about racism rather than a drama?
Racism is a touchy topic and can have triggers for so many people. I remember being young and watching the film Roots for the first time and then going to school. It was like for a moment every black person hated white people, all be it, it was their ancestors who were involved in slavery and not their classmates lol. I wanted to make a film that would not offend or point the finger at anyone but instead provoke thought, conversation and reflection. I don’t look at Racism as a black vs white or white vs black thing but as an EVERYONE against Racists thing. Making the film comical allows it to be more digestible while still getting across the important messages and undertone of the film.
Was there any hesitation behind making the film, did anyone tell you you shouldn’t do it?
A few people said I shouldn’t do it and when trying to get funding said no but those who know me know I don’t do No or If. I just persevered and with the help of Grayson Mcrae, Cham Joof, Jason Devil and Natasha Griffith we put our money together and made it happen.
Tell us about your casting process – why you chose to work with Aurie Styla and Tim Faraday again …also behind the scenes, you’re a bit of a one-man army when it comes to filmmaking how do you find the right people to work with and how do you delegate tasks so you’re not doing it all?
Casting On The Other Foot was actually an amazing process as I wanted to make sure I worked with actors who had the same core values as I do. Tim Faraday is one of the most talented actors I have had the pleasure of working with and stands firmly against racism. As does Aurie Styla and I knew Aurie could bring the comedy element to it. The rest of the cast just fell into place and having supporting appearances from Peter Andre and Lady Leshurr was amazing also. I’m quite an easy-going filmmaker and it’s all hands on deck on my productions. The runners are equally as important as the ADs or producers so with that in mind it’s more about just getting the job done. Although I do delegate I’m happy to do it all myself if need be.
You had a campaign video last year supporting the making of the film which included Richard Blackwood, Andy Cole, Chucky Venn and more in a ‘stand against racism’. How do films such as these change the way in which we see colour?
Well, this is the first time a film like this has been made in the UK of this nature so watch this space. It will be interesting to see how or if people look at colour different after watching it.
What has this project taught you about yourself and how you see the world as a writer and director?
Making the film helped me reinforce some of the values I have as a person. I made this film with very little money and in the heart of the pandemic against all adversity. I refused to let anything hold me back and so I guess it helped me to show others what it means to not give up and chase your dreams. I have a very simple mantra… I CAN and I WILL!
GETTING TO KNOW YOU…
A book you have to have in your collection? The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Monsta.
A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? Mary J Blige My Life
A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? 300, Lord Of The Rings and Bad Boys.
The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? Wicked and it was Wicked. I was never a fan of theatre but after watching it I was fully converted lol.
What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Sad – thinking about my mum not being able to be at my film premiere. Mad- I don’t do it. Wasted energy. Glad – I woke up.
Watch the trailer and find out more at www.ontheotherfootmovie.com