An Open Letter to: Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyong’o, Andrea Calderwood & Chimamanda Adichie
On the matter of the film, ‘Americanah’, and its Director. ____________________________________
There is no reason for you to have heard of me. Be it discussed in the trades, on the industry grape vine, or less still from seeing my work. Even lesser reason for any of your agents, managers, assistants, or colleagues to mention, even in passing, any attempts I might have made, or am yet to make in trying to reach you, assuming they receive any such communication in the first place.
I’m an independent filmmaker, a writer/director, as is so common within the scene. One of countless others, and not more deserving of your attention than anyone else. I’ve made a few feature films, have and continue to experiment a lot with short form narrative along side my other artistic ambitions… But nothing I write is going to be of any real proof or consequence, that what i’m doing is any better than what many others, both struggling and established, are doing. I’m not going to try and sell my work, but rather myself.
On discovering that the rights to the novel ‘Americanah’ (Which I have not read. Yet…) had been acquired, like anyone with an interest in the art form and the business, I investigated further, making my way through press releases and articles, finding out more about the book along the way. I know of the author, I’ve seen one cinematic adaptation of her work (Half of a yellow sun, which i’ve also read), and was impressed enough to care about the particulars of the story, as well as details on its adaptation.
Reading the blurb, I found a lot of things I related with. I’m a Nigerian, and naturalised British Citizen. Anyone who has had the luxury of the green passport has experienced the trials of visa applications, border controls, rejections, suspicion, accusation… but then the story of the two characters, and how their lives were impacted by simply being Nigerian and striving for something beyond their borders, and how their lives changed while abroad… the fact that it spans three continents, all of which I myself have spent time in… the fact that for the better part of a decade my own life was defined by borders, for better and worse… I felt uncharacteristically compelled to somehow be involved in this adaptation. It called to me, and as impossible as it might seem, that of all people I would be the one plucked from obscurity to take the directorial reigns, I can’t but try.
I know I have the capacity and perspective to bring something unique to the film, and enough experience that it won’t be much of a gamble, at least stylistically. The assumption is that a list of directors, probably of the clout and calibre of a Steve McQueen, Lee Daniels, Sofia Coppola, Andrew Dosunmu, and many other recognised names are likely circling or being approached as I write this. Perhaps one could say I would be the “brave” choice, the long shot, the under dog. The project itself is filled with many firsts. I would very much like to be one of those firsts.
“I worked with Cassavetes, and I said to him once, “John, when you were making Faces or Shadows, did you have any idea where you were going to distribute them?” And he said, “Fuck that. You don’t worry about that. You make the movie, and if people like it, they’ll watch it. If they don’t like it and it stinks, nobody watches it and it all takes care of itself. Don’t worry about that. Just make the fucking movie.””—Tom Noonan (x)
I was asked in an interview once: You’re writing another book with a female lead? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to be pigeonholed? And I thought, I write a team superhero book, an uplifting solo hero book, I write a horror-western, and I write a ghost story. What am I gonna be pigeonholed as?
Has a man in the history of men ever been asked if he was going to be pigeonholed because he wrote two consecutive books with male leads? Half of the population is women. I lose my temper here. And it’s certainly not at you. It’s just this pervasive notion that “white male” is the default. And you have to justify any variation from it.