In collaboration with the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Ayo Akingbade's Tower XYZ (2016) is showing exclusively on MUBI from June 30 - July 30, 2017 as part of the series Competing at Oberhausen.
Tower XYZ was filmed on 16mm in London, in the winter of 2015. The idea was conceived because I wished to make a longer piece as a continuation of my first short, In Ur Eye. I often say I started to make films because it was born out of necessity. I wasn’t seeing films or content which spoke to my lived experience or others I knew. Born out of frustration with film school and a certain dogma, I made Tower XYZ knowing this was my voice, the identity of a young British Nigerian female.
Although Tower XYZ explores themes like gentrification and social cleansing, I didn’t want to make a piece that was kitchen-sink style or a depressing social realist depiction of London because it is dry and super repetitive, found nearly everywhere in British TV and film. It was important the characters came from different backgrounds and traditions reflective of the multicultural society I live in. All the characters are nonprofessional with the exception of Roli, who plays the ‘Watermelon Lady.’
The present landscape in Great Britain is not exactly the most exciting or groundbreaking in terms of films that get put on. So often I turn to the USA and African cinema because I see a certain freedom and a multitude of voices co-existing and being celebrated. I graduate in the summer and I remain optimistic for the future. I would like to continue to make films, but it is a hard game especially when you want to make positive and urgent pieces.
I was in Sheffield when I heard about the tragic fire incident that occurred at Grenfell Tower in Ladbroke Grove. For years, many residents resisted and urged for the local government to listen to their basic human rights which came to no avail. This is the lived experience of many people globally deemed as ‘poor’ or ‘disadvantaged,’ ones ‘whom can’t help their situation.’ When I did finally visit the Grenfell site, I spoke to a local resident and she said, “We pay our rent, we pay our council tax and other bills. Because we live in a tower block—we are poor and should be forgotten?”
I would like to dedicate the film to the people who have been affected by such loss and many still kicking.