David Knight - 7th Oct 2020

Meji Alabi has directed several videos for Burna Boy, including some proper blockbusters. But have any been as powerful as this?

In visualising the sombre sentiments of the Stormzy-featured Real Life, Burna Boy gave Alabi licence to tell a story about the difficulties for Afro-Carribean people in London now. The result is a tour de force; a compelling mini-drama where the complexity of people's lives, navigating what is 'right' and 'wrong', is highlighted by the different routes taken by twin brothers, and a pointless murder. 

With a standout performances by Devontay and Dijon Graham as the brothers, Alabi creates a world on a West London estate populated with believable characters, sketched into life by his direction and Jaime Ackroyd's camera. Most painfully of all, Alabi stays firmly with the victim, as he dies alone. It is a departure for the director who has become one of the most adept at creating visually exciting pop videos, but a very confident and cinematic one.

Alabi even pauses the drama to allow a spoken word section, written and delivered by George The Poet, to add weight to the whole piece, that already includes strong performance elements from Burna Boy and Stormzy. Powerful indeed.

MEJI ALABI:

The blurred lines between road life vs real life... has lasting effects on friends, family, and the community in general.

"The story in this video really touches home for a lot of people. It explores the blurred lines between road life vs real life and how loss/murder - which I feel we’ve been someone desensitised to in the media - has lasting effects on friends, family, and the community in general. It’s a huge problem within Afro-Carribean communities in London, but the focus is rarely from the inside looking out. That’s what I wanted to express within this video. 

"You know a lot of London is being gentrified, and three estates I’ve shot on recently in West London are being demolished and turned into more high-end flats. We shot this on South Acton Estate and the wake scenes in the Working Men's Club which is part of the estate. Unfortunately, it’s the last shoot ever to take place there so I’m glad I got to capture this gem before it’s gone.

"We shot it over one and half days with Jaime Ackroyd absolutely nailing the feeling I wanted for the narrative scenes. We shot the Chronixx video together so really have a great understanding. Joel Honeywell also smashed it capturing the moody performance element on the half day with Burna and Stormzy in the little time we had them.

"The whole cast were absolutely amazing. Kharmel Cochrane is so good! I gotta shoutout Devontay and Dijon Graham who from the get-go understood the characters I needed them to embody and the emotions we were going for. We even linked up to shoot some small pickups in the park the day after the shoot.

"I’m blessed to have collaborated on some yet-to-be-released heat with George the Poet. So when this opportunity arose I knew he would understand the lifestyle and poignancy of what we needed to express during that breakdown. It was so casual: he pulled up at my house, I showed him my pre-assembly and the vibe and explained to him what I’d like us to say. And he delivered in literally a day in the most beautiful yet honest way. I was just blown away, and so was Burna when he heard it the first time. 

"Being based in West London really helped as well. It was really a community effort for me with a lot of friends and family filling in the wake scene. My friend's daughter was the little sister in the video - and it’s actually my daughter voice at the end of it too. It felt good shooting in fifteen minutes from my house too. I’m used to shooting in tropical locations, but it felt good to shoot close to home and tell a real story that can affect people lives positively and hopefully inspire a change in people's perceptions."

PRO Credits

Credits

ProducerMatt Klemera
Co-ProducerJimi Adesanya
Executive ProducerJimi Adesanya
Production ManagerLinah Bensadok
1st ADLuke Goodrich
Director of PhotographyJaime Ackroyd
Focus PullerLawrence Beckwith
SteadicamGary Kent
GafferRyan Monteith
Art DirectorJames Middleton
WardrobeMinna Attala
Make-upFemi Konteh
EditorPaume
Editing companyPaume
ColouristTim Smith
VFXDenova Media
Casting directorKharmel Cochrane
CommissionerShadeh Smith
LabelAtlantic Records
Other credits1st AC: Ciro Candia Loader: Elisa Spigariol Gaffer: Johnnie Besagni Drone Op: Drone Capone 2nd AD: Dennis Nortey MUA: Vaneza Londono MUA Assistant: Emily Directors Assistant: Mollana Burke Directors Assistant: Jason Bent DIT: Fatima Ouklilane PA: Peter Famosa Runner: Olivia Thurston Runner: Ola Badmus Catering: Mama Jay’s Art Dept Assistants: Phoebe McElhatton & Destinie Paige Location By Location Works! Cast: Boys: Devontay Graham, Dijon Graham Girlfriend: Rachel Banjo Friend: Lashay Harvey Mandem: Kamarni Peynado, Marcus Omoro, Kaylil Morris, D’Jon Mcternan Good Friends: Tyrus Mckenzie, Zirihi Zadi Mum: Veronica Alexander Grandma: Olivette Cole Wilson Neighbour: Akbar Merchant Victim Kid: Brandon Howard Killer: Joshua Okpala Killers Friend: Hakim Touissaint Sister: Janae Bent Childs Voice: Esmé Alabi

David Knight - 7th Oct 2020

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