Director: Olivia Emden
2020 | USA | 15m | United Kingdom
A sudden divorce wrenches Emeka out of a decade-long hiatus living the “middle-class” dream, landing him back in the childhood council house he hoped he’d left behind.
Playing in shorts program: Now That I’ve Found You
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Acrimonious is Olivia’s directorial debut. For the past few years, she’s been making her way as a screenwriter and script editor, both independently and with co-writer, Joseph Akubeze. As a writing duo, they have several projects in various stages of development, including commissions with Channel 4, BBC Studios, Lookout Point, Open Book and Easter Partisan.
“My Fair Lady” is that classic tale of class, social mobility, speech and identity; and what could be more relevant to the hodgepodge of London today? Inspired by Joseph’s own experiences (which took him from a council house in West London, to Cambridge University, and back again), we wanted to ask what a story of culturally-assimilative “hustle and flow” would look like in 2020.
The story is set against the backdrop of Hayes and Harlington—a less-than-affluent, multicultural, Heathrow-adjacent, Labour safe seat, with a large immigrant population, that also happens to be one of five London constituencies to vote Leave. It’s a place where a St. George’s flag can be seen flying opposite the West London Somaliland Community; a place where labels are reductive and stereotypes exclusionary, when it’s the people and stories in between these gaps that can make life so beautiful, messy and enthralling. With the long-overdue Crossrail, finally, about to be completed (promising a seamless 20-minute journey from Hayes to Bond Street), it’s also a place that, like Emeka, is on the cusp of an identity crisis of its own, as it faces full-frontal gentrification.
This is a story of acrimony and friendship, estrangement and belonging, heartbreak, aspiration, and selfhood. It’s a story that gives a voice and a face to the gay, working-class born, British-Nigerian millennial, a Black-South Asian queer interracial couple, and a biracial aspiring financial trader and drug dealer. It’s a story in which the characters are a deliciously unexpected, complicated mix of things, who—rebuffing one single definition—are this… and this, and this, and this.
I feel very proud to call “Acrimonious” my first short film, and very much hope you enjoy.