Video

UK Filmmaker Cecile Emeke's Portrayal Of Two Young Black Women In 'Ackee & Saltfish' Is Unlike Anything Else On Screen

UK filmmaker Cecile Emeke's portrayal of two young Black women in her film/web series 'Ackee & Saltfish' is unlike anything else on screen.

*All stills via Ackee & Saltfish


In November we spoke with UK-based filmmaker, poet and multimedia artist Cecile Emeke about her work breaking "single story dogma." Emeke's latest project, 'Ackee & Saltfish,' is a recently unveiled short film and a forthcoming web series that look at gentrification in London through the conversations of two best friends. "On a sunny Sunday afternoon Olivia and Rachel carry out their usual routine...absolute relaxation, however when the time comes to whip up some brunch it turns out Rachel forgot to soak the saltfish overnight," opens the film's storyline. "With an empty fridge, a lazy sunday afternoon state of mind and hearts set on ackee & saltfish, the two friends decide to drive down the road to Dalston to get some Caribbean takeaway..." The 17-minute short film is now available to watch here. The web series is set to premiere on Sunday, February 22. Below, Okayafrica contributor Adwoa Afful (The Style Idle) offers her take on Cecile Emeke's 'Ackee & Saltfish.'

Cecile Emeke has a talent for dialogue. In the opening scenes of Ackee & Saltfish, when best friends Olivia (Michelle Tiwo) and Rachel (Vanessa Babirye) banter over breakfast or on the hunt for Jamaican take-out, they're easily able to explore topics both intimate and broad without losing a beat. These seamless conversations allow Tiwo and Babirye’s spot-on comedic instincts to shine, forming the backbone of Emeke’s smart but highly relatable brand of comedy.

Emeke’s portrayal of two young Black women is unlike anything else on TV or the web right now. Yet something about it feels familiar. There’s no contrived romantic subplot, no barriers the characters need to overcome, no existential crises they need to work through. Rather, Emeke has the confidence and skill to let her characters do what two young Black women are so rarely allowed to do on screen – just hang out.

Prior to Ackee & Saltfish, Emeke worked primarily with short documentary style films, including the equally stellar Strolling series. This latest project is fictionalized, but shot more like a series of mini docs, with each episode playing like a snapshot, wholly contained, and tied up nicely at the end. While there is no overarching narrative that ties the pieces together (nor with the film), each installment broadens our understanding of the emotional core into Rachel and Olivia's characters and friendship. Olivia, the bleeding heart of the pair, is upfront with her progressive politics, and Rachel is the embodiment of the carefree black girl as the two broach issues related to race, class, gender and ethnicity with subtlety. The effects of gentrification, for example, are manifested in Olivia’s frustration at not being able to find a Jamaican food joint in her neighborhood. Through deft storytelling, Emeke makes bigger picture problems specific and personal without losing their social and cultural implications.

Emeke’s approach to filmmaking is lean. There‘s no excessive dialogue, no unnecessary scenes. It feels natural to get comfortable in the company of Olivia and Rachel. By the time the film closes you don’t really care if the friends finally manage to get their hands on some ackee and saltfish-- you’re just glad you got to tag along.

Adwoa Afful is a Ghanaian-Canadian fashion and culture blogger based in Toronto, who writes about fashion from a feminist perspective. You can follow her at her blog The Style Idle, as well as on Tumblr and Facebook.

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

Adekunle Gold Is Living His Best Life

We speak to the Nigerian star about how marriage and fatherhood have led him to find both newfound happiness and newfound freedom as an artist.