REVIEW: Inspired Takeover 2023, The Watershed

Inspired Takeover 2023 celebrated filmmakers of colour and their works last weekend at The Watershed

Words: Nathan Hardie, @hardiewrites

Images: Kelvin Williams, @melvzxlife

Over the course of a very sunny Saturday in June, Watershed cinema delegated hosting duties to Cables & Cameras, presenting the 2023 edition of Inspired Takeover 2023. Developed by C&C founder Gary Thompson, Inspired celebrates filmmakers of colour by showcasing their work and allowing them to discuss the creative process behind the scenes. With artists ranging from their first short to their first feature, I was surrounded by a wealth of talent that I couldn’t wait to hear from. 

Audience Q & A at Inspired Takeover 2023

Compère Junior Saunders kicked us off by introducing New Voices, a curated collection of short films made by those up and coming in the UK industry. There was a healthy mix of styles too, where Pamela Drameh’s Reflection and Shane GentlesGot Game both wondered ‘what could have been?’ using polar opposite tones. 

Experimenting with narrative structure, Ancestors Mewn Golau by Onismo Muhlanga and Dearlove, Leeds from Ndrika Anyika use music and spoken word poetry respectively to tell parallel stories of past and present. 

Samuel Adeoye silenced the audience through his emotionally hard-hitting tale Abdul, a Nigerian man seeking asylum in Germany following the EndSARS protests. Deeply raw, it shows how necessary such a powerful voice is to cinema, as discussed during the Q&A session with Writer/Director Ade Femzo.

Ade Femzo

Femzo’s relatable short Drop Out is a humorous take around convincing your parents on pursuing a career in the creative industry, just like he had to do. When asked what the film industry should take from events like Inspired, Femzo responded with “allow people of colour to tell our stories. It’s going to happen eventually anyway, so help us out”.

Thankfully, help pursuing creative careers followed New Voices, as Dominique Unsworth MBE and Tamara Barton-Campbell delivered a masterclass in the business side of cinema. Growing from a HMRC audit of 79p to setting up Resource Productions CIC, Unsworth emphasises the significance of diversifying your portfolio and becoming indispensable. 

Barton-Campbell from Renaissance Studios echoed those thoughts, and encouraged audience members to ask established creatives for mentoring whilst networking. If they weren’t both so incredibly busy already, I know who I would be suggesting after taking a copious amount of notes. 

Wrapping up the afternoon was two mid-length short films back-to-back: Mid20s and Homegrown. Directed by Elias and Timon Williams, Mid20s acts as a spiritual epilogue to the brothers’ previous picture Last Summer In OxfordWe bounce across the UK capital through the thoughts and conversations of various Londoners in their mid-twenties. Transitions between characters flow smoothly, much like the effortlessly funny dialogue. 

Their genuine portrayals are also conveyed through actor Scott Bayliss, advising new creatives that “you can only run your own race…There’s always stumbling blocks but you have to keep on, believe in yourself, and reach for the stars”.

Corinne Walker

After Mid20s’ snapshot of contemporary London, Corrine Walker’s Homegrown dramatically shifts us to a story the farming industry has tried to keep under wraps. Based on an article titled ‘Strawberry Slavery’, the film throws us into a greenhouse alongside seasonal migrant workers on the hottest day of the year. Strawberry picker Nicole is desperate to draw farm owner Mr Jones’ attention to the inhumane conditions, but is continuously pushed back to work by supervisor Travis.

Although primarily a dramatic piece, Walker incorporates psychedelic horror elements by altering the fruit’s colour. Accompanied by a shimmering glean indicating extreme heat, these dehydrated hallucinations bring into question Nicole’s sanity. Tonally, this fits the brutally exploitative narrative more than the initial drafts’ intentions. 

Being one of her favourite genres, producer Sophie Freeman told Dr Mena Fombo “The project started as a dark comedy drama…” with Walker continuing: “…and became a horror during a meltdown on the train redrafting”. 

They also praised their production designer, who I believe has made the grimmest toilet since Trainspotting!

Chevalier, Image: Searchlight Pictures

For the day’s final screening, we were treated to a special preview of Chevalier, coming out at Watershed June 9th. Based on a true story, director Stephen Williams pieces together part of violinist-composer Joseph Bologne’s lost history. 

Appointed Chevalier de Saint-Georges by Queen Marie Antoinette, Bologne had risen through the ranks of high society after being hidden as a child by his plantation-owning father. So talented in the art of violin that he made Mozart envious; his confident attitude frequently battled against institutionalised racism. Resiliently holding his position until it became untenable, Bologne became a key figure of the revolution.

What’s interesting about Chevalier is that it’s only a snapshot of who Bologne was. Joining us from Los Angeles, Williams explained why: “Joseph’s life was so rich it could fuel half a dozen movies. Instead of doing his whole life, I was focused on two poles – becoming Chevalier and the start of the revolution. Something transformative must have happened then.” 

I appreciate this level of restraint, with many biopics squeezing superfluous amounts of detail into a 3-hour bloated picture. Yet, I also felt the story focused too much on the Ernestine Opera, leaving the relationship with his Mother to simmer in the background, and only one short montage embracing his roots. 

However, what Chevalier does brilliantly is encapsulate the late 18th century aesthetics. Costumes and set designs were immaculate, seen from each angle via wide shots and long takes. Capturing everything in this fashion also includes intense music scenes, which lead actor Kelvin Harrison Jr tirelessly learnt to play during production. 

These set pieces are the movie’s biggest strength, and were director’s assistant Anastasia Osei-Kuffour favourite to prepare – meticulously planning how the sequence will flow against the music. Starring a great supporting cast including Samara Weaving, Minnie Driver and Sian Clifford, Chevalier’s untold story is a must for fans of the period drama. 

To summarise, I don’t believe Gary Thompson could have picked a more apt name for the event than Inspired Takeover 2023. The programming showed the progression of so many talented filmmakers of colour through the industry, presenting a clear path to follow in their footsteps. Being able to network and ask questions after each screening provided invaluable insights, leaving me hopeful for the future and inspired to make my voice heard.

Chevalier will be showing at the Watershed from June 9th – 15th, booking information is available here

Nathan Hardie is the newest member of our team and developing a career as a film critic and scriptwriter. Find out more about Nathan and the projects he’s been working on here 

Photographer Kelvin Williams