Farming, the feature film debut from actor-director Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, is one of those emotionally jarring films that puts you through the ringer. It is a tough film to watch because it tackles its subject matter in a brutality honest way. It makes the viewer uncomfortable while opening their eyes to issues that are sadly still relevant to today.
In the 1960s, Nigerian immigrants found it difficult to assimilate into life in the UK. As anti-immigration sentiment led to the rise of far-right groups, many immigrants temporarily sold their children into foster care while they worked on furthering their education and landing decent jobs. This process of “farming out” children became an epidemic as several UK families saw it as an easy revenue stream. However, neither the birth parents nor the foster parents considered the impact on the children.
For Enitan (Damson Idris) the experience sent him down a dark and dangerous path of self-loathing. Only viewed as a black revenue machine by his foster mother Ingrid (Kate Beckinsale) and having no cultural connection to his Nigerian heritage, he found himself on the outside of two worlds. Desperately wanting to be white, and desiring the carefree life that goes with it, Enitan would give anything to have his dark skin not be the first thing people see. Longing for a place to belong, Enitan eventually finds himself joining the ranks of the same skinhead group that once terrorized him.
Inspired by Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s life growing up in the farming system, the film captures how the desire for acceptance can leave people susceptible to falling pray to radical ideology. Farming is harrowing reminder that it does indeed take a village to raise a child. Aside from Ms. Dapo (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a high-school teacher who desperately tries to get him on the right path, Enitan never has anyone truly in his corner. He may feel that the gang has his back, but it is clear he will always be the “other” in their eyes and society at large.
Equally powerful and uncomfortable, Farming is a stark reminder of the dangerous lengths that self-loathing can lead to.
Friday, September 14, 10 PM, Scotiabank