“It’s just girls being girls”: inside Rocks, a new type of coming-of-age film

The cast of Rocks

Director Sarah Gavron, writers Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson, and actors Bukky Bakray and Kosar Ali on how they made a story of contemporary sisterhood.

When Sarah Gavron, Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson set out to make Rocks, they wanted it to be authentic. They decided the process for their bold film, which follows a group of London schoolgirls through home troubles and friendship fallouts, had to be collaborative. The film’s cast members were not hired via traditional auditions, but were discovered through months of research in school classrooms across London. Its script was not set in stone in a writers’ room, but workshopped in sessions with young people. The story development and casting process went hand in hand, and the result is a remarkable portrayal of inner-city teenage life.

“This was a film that had to be authored by everyone involved,” said Gavron, the director, who was born in London in 1970 and has dedicated her career to telling the stories of women, including in Brick Lane (2007) and Suffragette (2015). “That was the way to make it true, to make it sing, to make it reflect and capture and be true to who these girls are.”

The very nature of this collaboration disrupted the traditional hierarchy of a film set, and this alone makes the film feel revolutionary in its commitment to depicting real life. “Because we spent so long with everybody as a group, even though the film was scripted a lot of the nuances and the magic came from the time we spent with the girls,” said Ikoko, a British-Nigerian playwright who grew up on a Hackney estate similar to the one depicted in the film, and who co-wrote the screenplay with Wilson. “There was a lot of trust. A lot of them was in us, and a lot of us was in them.”

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In February, I met Gavron, Ikoko and first-time actors Bukky Bakray,17, and Kosar Ali, 16, who play best friends Rocks and Sumaya, in a central London office. Claire Wilson, whose writing credits include the BBC adaptation of Le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl and an upcoming adaptation of The Power by Naomi Alderman, joined via Facetime. Bakray and Ali, who were 14 and 13 respectively when they filmed Rocks, were tired after a long day of interviews, they told me, but still they munched on sweets from bowls on the large boardroom-like table, and giggled endlessly with their colleagues. Evident off-screen in that room, even after back-to-back meetings, was the joy that also burns through Rocks on screen. 

Kosar Ali and Bukky Bakray as Sumaya and Rocks. Image credit: Charlotte Croft

At the film’s heart is 15-year-old British-Nigerian Rocks, who lives on an east London estate with her little brother, Emmanuel, and their single mother, Funke. In the first scene, we see Rocks and her friends hanging out on the roof of a tower block, singing and dancing at golden hour, the urban sun beating down on them. It’s a glorious depiction of the free spirit of youth. Soon, Rocks’s world shifts dramatically: she comes home from …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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