AKI OMOSHAYBI’S determination to make an authentic film which featured two black protagonists, resulted in him writing, directing, producing – and starring in Real.
His debut feature film is an independent release, again, evidence of his resolve to bring this story to the big screen.
“To be honest with you, it wasn’t a decision, I had no choice. I guess when you aim to make a film like this, it’s hard to get through doors…to get people to read it and take it seriously,” Omoshaybi told The Voice.
Real follows two twenty-somethings, Kyle (Omoshaybi) and Jamie (Pippa Bennett-Warner) as they work through their individual struggles and growing feelings for one another.
While some of the challenges Kyle and Jamie face can be argued to be rooted in systematic racism, it’s notable that their blackness isn’t central to the plot – their characters could be played by actors of any race. Omoshaybi spoke to The Voice about why this was so important to him.
‘“Our white counterparts get to do that all the time – play parts where it’s not about their race. And sometimes in our industry – more now – but previously we weren’t given the chance to play parts where it wasn’t about our race,” Omoshaybi said.
“I felt it was really important to show black people on screen just being, rather than just for being black.”
It was something that struck Bennett-Warner when she first learned about the character she was playing.
“Black love is beautiful”
Actress Pippa Bennett-Warner
“One of the main things when I first read the script, I thought God, of course, by default if I’m playing the part, Jamie is black but they just read as people, they’re not coming with any kind of baggage of stereotypical blackness, if that makes any sense. So it was really nice because if felt like…there’s freedom within the piece – and also within finding Jamie – of just experiencing what it was like to just be, and not have to kind of play up to blackness or play up to stereotypes.”
Audiences will attest to how rare it is to see a film that shows two black people in love – especially in Britain. Bennett-Warner hopes the film will drive home the message that “black people fall in love, and black people also fall in love with other black people”.
“I think the only thing about that is to celebrate it because black love is beautiful – and is as important as two white people falling in love on screen,” Bennett-Warner said.
Omoshaybi agrees. He also wants his portrayal of black love to inspire.
“I truly believe it offers something different especially for the diaspora, for black filmmakers,” he said. “I want it to kind of inspire because I guess it is a small film, we shot in 12 days, the budget was tiny and we’ve come together and made something which I think is good.”
Real premiered at the BFI London Film Festival and is out in UK cinemas and available to watch on demand now.