Writer Theresa Ikoko’s debut feature ‘Rocks’ will open TIFF’s Platform Strand

After winning the Alfred Fagon award in 2105 for her play ‘Girls‘, Theresa Ikoko set her sights on film.

Ikoko’s debut film ‘Rocks‘ is a co-write with Claire Wilson (Partners in Crime), it’s directed by British director Sarah Gavron (Suffragette, Brick Lane) and has just been announced as the opening film at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) Platform strand. Platform was launched in 2015, as a juried programme championing director’s cinema from around the world; one film from the stream is selected as the winner of the Platform Prize.

What’s unique about Rocks is that it focuses on girls whose stories are rarely seen on the British big screen. The story and characters have been developed in a unique work-shopping process with non-actors from various racial backgrounds including Nigerian, Somali, Polish-gypsy, Bangladeshi, Congolese-Ghanaian and white British (source: Screen International).

With the lead character played by Bukky Bakray, the story is: – Rox is a popular teenager with big dreams for the future, brilliant friends and an adoring little brother Emmanuel. But her world is turned upside down when her mother suddenly leaves. Determined to stick with her brother and avoid being taken into care against all odds, Rox leaves her home and hides around London with the help of her loyal – or maybe not so loyal – friends. As each day becomes tougher, Rox pushes away those who love her and her friendship squad begins to fracture. When the authorities finally catch up with her, there is only one solution: her friends. Rox and her girls embark on a courageous, joyous and at times precarious journey, bouncing between moments of wisdom and crippling innocence. A film about the resilience and spirit of girlhood.

Rocks is produced by Faye Ward (Suffragette, Stan and Ollie, Wild Rose) through Fable Pictures and Ameenah Ayub Allen (The Selfish Giant, Brick Lane) who have a longstanding relationship with Gavron. The film is backed and funded by Film4 and the BFI (awarding funds from the National Lottery) with additional support from Wellcome. Executive producer Altitude is handling international sales and will be releasing the film in the UK and Ireland.

Writer Theresa Ikoko says, “There are few things as powerful as female friendship. Key to this project has been a special group of young women, many of whom are growing up down the road from where I did in Hackney.” Co-writer Claire Wilson agrees that the girls have, “breathed life into the creation and realisation of this story”. Ikoko continues, “I hope these girls give the gift of joy and love to the many young women who will soon see them – and through them, *themselves* – on screen.”

The cast of Rocks

Director Sarah Gavron says “I set out wanting to convey what it’s like to be a teenage girl in the rapidly changing world of today. The writers, Theresa and Claire worked with the girls and have created a compelling narrative that captures the visceral experience of growing up in contemporary London. The filmmaking team and I have put in place a framework that aims to allow for the film to have a spontaneous, naturalistic feel, and to bottle the exuberance and resilience of our eclectic cast of girls.

As a team, we wanted to make a film that conveys the intrinsic experience of being a teenage girl in the rapidly changing and uncertain world of today and to explore the emotional power of female friendship. In preparing the film we have worked closely with our cast of girls over an extended period of time. The film making process itself will be structured in a way that we hope will allow us to capture their natural rhythms and spirit”

Behind the scenes, the team chose a cast and crew reflective of their personal and professional commitment in filmmaking to diversity and inclusion. Producer Ameenah Ayub Allen set out numerous opportunities for new entrants on the ground (several recruited from You Make It, a charity which empowers low income, minority and underrepresented young women in London) and for junior-mid level crew who are progressing to their first jobs in more senior roles through a new initiative from the BFI Film Fund with support from seasoned senior crew and HoDs, Majority departments have significant BAME representation and overall the crew is 75% female, reflecting the protagonists of the story being told on screen.

Gavron, wanted a female DoP to capture the female teenage aesthetic, as well as a female 2nd Unit DoP, whose teams have evolved to be entirely women. The production team includes casting director Lucy Pardee (The Devil Outside, American Honey, Fish Tank), director of photography Hélène Louvart (Lazzaro Felice, Pina, Beach Rats), production designer Alice Normington (My Cousin Rachel, Their Finest, Suffragette), costume designer Ruka Johnson (Obey, Trendy) Editor Maya Maffioli (Beast, Kingdom of Us) and hair and make-up designer Nora Robertson (Stan & Ollie, Johnny English Strikes Again).

Rocks opens at TIFF date to be announced. Find out more and book here.

Read TBB’s 2016 interview with Theresa Ikoko here


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