In the 1960s and 1980s, tens of thousands of Nigerian children were given out to white working class families in the UK, using private foster care to prevent the interference of social services and the authorities - the practice was called farming. British-Nigerian Actor, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is one of those children. Now, Adewale is directing a movie based on his own autobiographical story, and about five years ago, a reading of the screenplay took place at the first-ever Sundance London Film Festival.
The movie, aptly titled Farming, chronicles Adewale’s coming-of-age story growing up fostered by a white working class family in the UK.
In the film, Adewale is sent to the UK. by his parents in hopes of achieving a better life. Instead, he becomes the feared leader of a white skinhead gang in 1980s England. When all seems lost and he spirals into self-destruction, a benevolent teacher offers him one last chance at redemption. Kate Beckinsale plays Adewale's abusive, neglectful foster mother; Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the teacher who helps him turn his life around, and Damson Idris will play a young Adewale.
In real life, Adewale was born in Islington, London, to Nigerian parents of Yoruba origin, who were students in the UK. When he was six weeks old, his biological parents gave him up to a white working-class family in Tilbury. His foster parents had at least ten African children, including Adewale's two sisters, living in their house at certain points.
When he was eight years old, his biological parents brought him back to Nigeria, but he was returned to Tilbury shortly after. The brief exposure to Nigeria left him struggling to reconcile his heritage with the English culture and environment he was raised in.
This cultural identity crisis led him to join a local skinhead gang in order to escape racially-motivated attacks from them. At 16, already a violent thief and the leader of the gang, his foster parents sent him to a boarding school in Surrey. He attempted suicide before his teacher helped him overcome his challenges. It’s really a fascinating, unusual story, and one that should make for a very interesting movie, depending on how it’s handled. Production will begin August 2017, with shooting in the UK and Nigeria.
Adewale went on to earn a Law degree from King's College, London and a Master's degree in Law from the University of London.He has famously starred in movies like Thor: The Dark World, Suicide Squad, G.I. Joe: The rise of Cobra, Pompeii; and TV shows like Game of Thrones and Lost.