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18th BFI Future Film Festival, 2024

"I think its mostly been a journey of self discovery and the more lived experiences I collect the more layers of my culture and identity I uncover."

Away from the Fields is a short film and photo series, embracing the gift of dual identity that has been given to children of the Black diaspora. It portrays the comfort and contentment we find in each other whenever we feel too far from home.


Hi Safeen, thank you for talking to TNC. How does it feel to have Away from the Fields part of this years BFI Future Film Festival?

I’m so glad! For me it means that the message that I thought was so personal has landed well with an unexpected group of people. I’m really grateful to have this platform to share a community story with a wider audience.

Are there any nerves ahead of the screening?

A little. But more excitement. I’m interested in seeing how my film will be received by a new audience and excited to see the crew take in all their hard work on a BFI screen.

How important are festivals like Future Film Festival in creating a platform for short films and emerging filmmakers?

I think festivals like these open up opportunities to connect with other emerging filmmakers and be inspired by the kind of work they’re creating. This is really important because, seeing the creative approaches of our peers, invites us to become more innovative and to tell stories from unique perspectives. In this way the filmmaking ecosystem can be kept fresh, inventive and zealous.


What more can be done on a local/national level to offer short films more visibility to audiences outside of the festivals circuit?

I think what would be impactful is more funding specifically for screenings of short films by emerging filmmakers. Finishing a film is one thing, but then you have the hurdle of marketing it and getting it out into the right places. Social media is a great tool but doesn’t always do all your hard work justice. Hosting screenings gives filmmakers the opportunity to create the optimum experience for their films to be viewed and will give them the chance to curate rooms full of creatives they respect - which they otherwise may not have been invited into.

Do you recall when you first became aware of you own culture and identity, how did this help shape your filmmaking path?

I don’t think there was one distinctive moment. I think it’s mostly been a journey of self discovery and the more lived experiences I collect the more layers of my culture and identity I uncover. Everything I’ve experienced up until now has been a potential theme or thought starter for a story I’d like to tell. My ideas are driven by the things I’ve experienced first hand and the characters by who I’d like to become.

Can you tell me how Away from the Fields came about, what inspired the film?

Away from the Fields came about through having conversations on whether I’m Nigerian or not. It’s usually hear things like “you don’t look Nigerian” or “But your name isn’t Nigerian”. It’s interesting how we all have an idea in our heads of how we think other people should represent a certain nationality. And it got me thinking about what it does mean to be Nigerian and whether there are any differences between being a Nigerian in the UK vs being a Nigerian in Nigeria. Spoiler alert - there most certainly are. But the point is that the Nigerian identity is multidimensional and for the Nigerian Diaspora, our lived experiences outside of Nigeria doesn’t invalidate our identity as Nigerians. So this film is for the Black diaspora and really anyone who has experienced the complexities of wanting to integrate into a country that you live in versus wanting to sustain the culture of the country that you originate from.


"I was first drawn to photography, which I still practice and then started thinking about how I could build on the stories I was telling in stills."

What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing Away from the Fields to to the big screen?

Budget! It’s hard realising your vision with not much in the bank, but the cast and crew were heavily dedicated to working together and really pouring a lot of themselves into this film, purely because they believed in the vision. And it was really a testimony to what the film is all about - community. Low budget also meant I had to get really hands-on in post production - I edited the film myself. I wouldn’t go out of my way to call myself an editor but I most certainly had to take on that role for this project, which was quite tedious. I’m glad it’s paid off, with a bigger budget though, I would 100% pay someone else to do it next time.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?


I was exposed to film from an early age, so I’ve always had a passion for watching films. But I never really thought to explore film as a medium myself until university where I was given the tools and resources to experiment with so many formats. I was first drawn to photography, which I still practice and then started thinking about how I could build on the stories I was telling in stills. Motion felt like a natural way to expand. What first started as an experiment now feels like a calling.

How much has your approach to your films changed since you started out?

I think the messages are still the same as I still hold the same values, but I hope the way I’m able to communicate them now feels more concise. I also think when I started out I was too scared to ask for help or share my ideas but now I’m more open to collaboration, especially with now having a better understanding of how film crews are made. And I think now my approach involves less decision making time. When you plan for too long that’s all it will ever be; a plan. So now when I have a film idea, I approach it with more actions and less words.


What does Away from the Fields say about you as a filmmaker and the stories you want to tell in the future?

My cultural Identity will always be an important part of who I am and how I show up in the world and I'm very proud of that. And I hope the stories I tell in the future will encourage others to go on their own journey of self discovery and lean into all the different components of their identity that make them who they are.

Before you started your filmmaking journey was the the best piece of advice you was given?

There is power in collaboration.

And finally, what do you hope you audiences will take away from Away from the Fields?

I hope they’ll realise that they can find themselves in the people they surround themselves with. They can be the fullest versions of themselves without having to be labelled or characterised by just one thing but they can allow themselves to be moulded by an array of experiences. And finally that there is value in how they decide to present themselves in the world.

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