Destiny Ekaragha and Bola Agbaje
The UK is the focus country at this year's edition of the Durban International Film Festival, where director Destiny Ekharagha and screenwriter Bola Agbaje are presenting their debut feature, the Peckham-set Gone Too Far!
Bola Agbaje (left) and Destiny Ekaragha (right) on the set of Gone Too Far!
What's your connection to the British Council?
Destiny: My connection the British council is that they’ve been a major support throughout my career and we are currently on our way to present Gone Too Far! as part of the UK Focus at the Durban International Film Festival.
What's your current project?
Destiny: My current project is my first feature film, Gone Too Far! It’s based on the Olivier Award winning play of the same name and was adapted for the screen by the same writer.
Bola: I’m also attached to two other feature film projects.
What/who originally turned you onto film?
Destiny: I’ve been a huge fan of film for as long as I can remember. I think that the film that stuck with me the most from childhood to adulthood was The Breakfast Club by John Hughes. The more I watched it, the more I loved it. Later on, films like Kevin Smith's Clerks, Richard Linklater's Dazed & Confused, Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing and Tarrantino's Pulp Fiction became major influences on me, not just for their style but mostly for their wonderful use of dialogue. These films inspired me to write; I just wanted characters to say all the crazy things that went around in my head so I went for it. So far it’s paying off.
Bola: I come from a big family and we used to watch films all the time and we used to re-enact scenes from films to entertain ourselves. I originally wanted to be an actor and star in films but when I attended the Royal Court Theatre's Young Writers Programme in 2006 I realised that I had a passion for writing. I started off as a playwright but always wanted to write films and it was when I was given a development grant from the BFI I was able to write my first screenplay, an adaptation of my first play Gone Too Far!
What has been your career high so far?
Destiny: I would say that my career high so far was the Gone Too Far! premiere at the London Film Festival. It took place at the Odeon Leicester Square and was a red carpet event. My whole family attended as well as old school friends, it was great. The amazing moment came inside the cinema though. The response from the audience to the film was insane. I’d never heard laughter like that in the cinema before. Every joke seemed to land, it was one of the best moments of my life.
Bola: My career high so far, well it’s actually two; the first was when my first play was performed in the theatre in 2007. I felt I had made it...lol! I saw my characters come alive right in front of my eyes and I would watch every single performance to see how the audience reacted to it. The other high was when we finally got to make Gone Too Far! into a film. The first day on set was when it really hit home that I was making a movie, the journey had not ended and we were on the second phase. Gone Too Far! was in development for 3 years - it is hard to makes films and even harder to get films made with black actors in the leading roles, it was an achievement. I was proud that me, Destiny and our producer Christopher stuck it out and we didn't stop till we got the film made. It is a very big achievement and definitely a career high for me personally.
What was your first job in the film industry?
Destiny: My first job in the film industry was on a British feature film, I was a runner. I made sure everybody was well hydrated, it was fun, I learnt a lot.
Bola: My first job in this industry was a script writer.
If I knew then what I know now…
Destiny: If I knew then what I know now I’d tell myself to get a side hustle. Just have something on the side that will help you financially whilst chasing your dreams. This is isn’t a back up plan or a sign of giving up, it’s just something to help you eat whilst pursuing your goals. On the flipside, don’t let the side hustle distract you from your main focus.
Bola: Ohhh patience is a virtue....I am one of the most impatient people in the world and the film industry is an industry that people say 'hurry up, hurry up' and then say 'wait'. We spend most of our times meeting deadline and then waiting to be green lit. Lol. It is a funny business.
What is your favourite British film?
Destiny: My favourite British film is Bend It Like Beckham. Not only is it funny and heartfelt, it’s also a film that was brave enough to deal with two very different cultures authentically and was unapologetic in its approach. It reflects the Britain we live in today, a Britain that is seldom represented on TV and film. The fact that it was directed by not only a woman but an ethnic woman isn’t lost on me either. It really inspired me.
Bola: My favourite British movie is East is East - I watched it again the other day. Ironically it was original a play first. I think that the characters are so well rounded, it is funny and it is unapologetic about its themes and the world. I love that the most.
If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
Destiny: If I had to choose a film that I wish I had directed or been involved with, I’d have to choose Back To The Future. To me, that’s one of the greatest films ever made. To explain why is pointless, there are too many reasons. I LOVE that film, it’s everything.
What’s the first film you remember seeing?
Destiny: The first film that I remember seeing is A Nightmare On Elm Street. I was both frightened and excited by that film. I was excited by it because I thought, if that world was real then that meant magic was real and a magical world where anything is possible is a world that I wanted to live in.
Bola: The first film I remember seeing is a Bollywood film when I lived briefly in Nigeria - Bollywood is big in Nigeria. I think it was called Disco but I can't be sure. It was a musical and I remember the singing and the dancing and one of the characters turning into a snake....lol. I need to find the film and watch it again. I watched it as a kid so I may be wrong about the themes.
What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
Destiny: If I had to choose a favourite scene from a film, I’d probably pick the moment when John Bender tells his teacher to ‘Eat my shorts’ in The Breakfast Club. The argument that comes after that is one of my favourite scenes ever. I love the back and forth battle that they have where neither of them will back down. It’s done so well, the actors are brilliant in that scene. I used to go back and watch it over and over again, I loved it.
Bola: My favourite line is 'King Kong ain't got shit on me'....from Training Day. I remember the moment in the cinema, the line and how it made me feel.
Favourite screen kiss?
Destiny: There are so many great movie kisses out there, it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite but if I had to I’d pick the one in Benny and Joon. I remember seeing it as a kid and being fascinated by the moment Benny gently holds Joon’s hair as they kiss. That moment was magical to me, it still is. I loved seeing these two oddball characters come together in such a beautiful way, they were in a world of their own, it was beautiful.
Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain?
Destiny: My favourite screen hero is Christopher Reeves’ Superman. I’d say the reasons are obvious, Strong, kind and handsome. He was the ultimate dream! My favourite villain is probably Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. He managed to pull off insanity and evil with logic and humour. He was a character you loved, hated and feared. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It was a brilliant performance.
Bola: My hero has to be Forest Gump and my villain has to be Al Pacino in Scarface although he could be seen as a hero or a villain depends on how you look at it. Basically I am a sucker for underdogs.
Who would play you in the film about your life?
Destiny: I wouldn’t have a story about my life. It would only consist of me eating, sleeping, reading, watching films and listening to music. It would be so boring!
Bola: Ohhh now that is a good one. My little sister Bisola Agbaje (She is 19 so not so little) looks like me and was a child actor. She was in Doctor Who season 2. I would have said her if she didn't quit acting but I'm not sure who yet...I will have to think about that one.
Watch Destiny talking about Gone Too Far! during the London Film Festival launch in 2013.
Discover British Council's Connect ZA programme building links between S African and UK artists - hosts to Destiny and Bola's Durban visit.