In Case You Missed It : Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje Powerfully Delivered Autobiographical Story ‘Farming’
If the story told in “Farming” hadn’t been taken from the experiences of its writer-director, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, you might think it too outlandish to be plausible. This movie sets out to explore the ramifications of “farming”, a phenomenon that began in the late 1960s and saw Nigerian children privately fostered by white, mostly working-class families while their parents worked and studied.
Enitan is parked in Essex with new foster mother, Ingrid (played by Kate Beckinsale), where he experiences violent, humiliating, racialised abuse inside and outside of the home. As a teenager, he is attacked and violated by some skinheads and eventually adopted as their “pet”. Every time you think you’ve reached the pinnacle of his pain, there’s more physical and psychological torture just around the corner. Indeed, Farming spends a lot of screen time meticulously charting how Enitan goes from neglected and bullied foster kid to victim-turned-member of the ‘Tilbury Skins’, and once he arrives on screen, John Dagleish is appropriately unnerving as the leader of the white skinhead gang.
Eni is friendless except for the kindly ministrations of saint like teacher Ms. Dapo, who becomes the target of more overt violence, specifically falling afoul of the self-dubbed “Tilbury Skins,” a skinhead gang led by Levi (played by John Dalgleish). In the most literal example of the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality, he goes from Levi’s victim to his barely tolerated “pet” in the profoundly misbegotten belief that if he can outmatch them in the viciousness of his racial hatred, he will have found a tribe to which he can belong.
The complete rejection of Enitan’s blackness is portrayed with fierce intensity, and Akinnuoye-Agbaje has a knack for conjuring up some vivid imagery; a black face covered up with white talcum powder is a particularly striking visual. Disheveled in appearance, Kate Beckinsale impresses in her best work since “Love & Friendship”. In a small part as a concerned teacher, Gugu Mbatha-Raw represents the only ounce of tenderness found in the entire picture as Ms. Dapo.
This movie is not only confronting, but for people of colour can also be quite relatable in aspects. It shows what the psychological effects of racism can do to someone mentally. Enitan’s transition from scholar to lost soul is concluded so well in the final minutes. Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s admirable life story ends on the most emotional and sensational chapter.