The Director and Star of 'The Last Tree' Speak on the Endless Search for Identity Growing Up Nigerian and British
At the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, we chat with director Shola Amoo and actor Sam Adewunmi about finding self in the midst of cultural non-conformism.
In the opening scene of The Last Tree, we see the young protagonist, Femi (played as a child by Tai Golding), screaming at the top of his lungs while frolicking in the fields of Lincolnshire in the British countryside, in ecstatic happiness. He is a young Nigerian-British boy surrounded by his (white) classmates from a preppy-seeming local school. As the film progresses, Femi's howls turn into a symbolic cry of frustration. His aggravation is born out of the challenge of coming to terms with his own identity in the midst of competing pressures from those who dictate who he should be given the color of his skin and his heritage.
The film, which just premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival, is directed by Shola Amoo and is one of the four African directors to screen features in the Utah Mountains this past weekend. When it begins, Femi has a seemingly comfortable existence within the warm embrace of his foster mother, Mary (Denise Black). Soon, the idyll is shattered when his birth mother, Yinka (Gbemisola Ikumelo) appears to take her with him, against his desires, to London. Things only worsen for him from there.