Lambeth star, Lewisham writer, Southwark’s painful story

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The story of Damilola Taylor’s family coping with their son’s tragic and infamous death has been worked into a film for BBC One. It is written by Lewisham resident Levi David Addai and produced by Minnow Films.

Southwark residents will be moved by the film’s familiarity, with many scenes shot locally, reminding us of the news images telling the story from 2000.

A local schoolboy, from Lambeth, Sammy Kamara, with no previous acting experience, is uncanny as Damilola; along with Juwon Adedokun playing his brother Tunde, and Babou Ceesay as Richard, Damilola’s father.

Southwark’s community played a key role in making the film. Idowu Kukoyi, who worked as a runner on Damilola, Our Loved Boy, was with the project from the start.

“I was involved with the Damilola Taylor Trust during Minnow’s initial research discussions with Richard Taylor. At the time I was studying a foundation degree in media. Then I went on to do a degree in television. I just completed my degree this year. As it got toward the end of my studies, I was so scared I wouldn’t find work. Then, I had an email from Sue Horth, who produced the film, saying Richard Taylor had recommended me for the BBC production.

“So I’d just finished studying for my degree and walked into 17 days work on this production. I then went straight in to a fulltime role at IMG working on Sports production. I’d like to become a production manager for TV one day.

“Having experience like this on my CV was the key. Working on Damilola, Our Loved Boy was fantastic experience. The radio skills in particular are important, listening to the voices in your ear and knowing which ones are speaking to you.

“It’s a really important way of learning how all the roles in production work, and their knock on effect. You can’t lead in this business, unless you start out at the bottom.

“For Damilola, Our Loved Boy, I worked 11-hour days – and that makes you really use the 24 hours you have in a day. It teaches you about scheduling your life.

“I’m really happy to be a part of this production and happy to be a local woman speaking up about what happened to the community after Damilola’s death.

“I really hope that this film will help stop knife crime. I really hope it will prevent more deaths.

FilmFixer manages the film office for Southwark Council. FilmFixer director Andrew Pavord says Sue Horth’s production worked extremely closely with the council.

“This production behaved in an exemplary fashion,” he says. “On one hand, the team sought to engage residents in a positive fashion. On the other, they trod extremely sensitively in the borough, out of respect for the ongoing healing process, after the terrible shock and sadness of Damilola’s death.

“It was extremely moving to watch some of the scenes being filmed, particularly those shot around the Silwood Estate last summer; to see an actor playing Richard Taylor, alone, as he watches other children playing; to watch Sammy skipping along with his school bag as Damilola – just as we’d seen in the CCTV footage at the time; it brought memories flooding back.

“This is a local film, through and through, and one which the production, and our community, should be extremely proud of.”

Written by award-winning screenwriter and playwright, Levi David Addai, the story is told from the point of view of the Taylor family. It explores their journey from Lagos to London, and the emotional repercussions in their quest for justice.

Producer Sue Horth’s approach to tackling the story was driven by a desire for authenticity: “We took great care to consult the Taylor family throughout our production and to consult with the local community who had gone on their journey with them, so were naturally very keen to root our filming in the real places which the Taylors had encountered.

“Peckham has changed dramatically over the years but it remains the heart of the Nigerian community in London and it was really important for us to capture a flavour of that on screen.

“It was also very important as a production to give back to the community, to involve them in our storytelling and to bring local young people into the heart of the film-making experience. We are very grateful for the support of the local community and proud to have made this film with them.”