Two teenage actresses who are making their international debut in the British film Rocks have described the lack of diversity in the UK film industry as "embarrassing".
Bukky Bakray, who is 17, and Kosar Ali, 16, had never acted professionally until they were cast in director Sarah Gavron's film about a group of school friends in East London.
The movie was critically acclaimed at its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival a year ago, but its cinema release was delayed until now due to the pandemic.
"The disparity of representation in the industry is revolting," says Bakray, who is British Nigerian and lives in Hackney, where the film is set.
Pointing to the recent reignition of the Black Lives Matter movement, Bakray adds "our current climate has highlighted that disparity".
"But I feel that more creatives are not asking, they're taking, and that energy should be at the forefront. Hopefully now more brown people are taking their rightful positions in the industry and pitching their stories.
"For a lot of us brown women, the Black Lives Matter movement isn't just a trend. Black Lives Matter is something that we've been talking about since we were able to articulate ourselves.
"It's taken so long for something to happen about the lack of representation in film... It's quite embarrassing to be honest."
"It's embarrassing how many beautiful stories that the industry has been missing out on," agrees Ali. "I hope their minds and their eyes have been opened now."
The film was made by a mostly female crew and cast and Bakray plays the title role of schoolgirl Rocks.
She fears she and her little brother Emmanuel will be forced apart if anyone finds out they are living alone. Her friends help her evade the authorities while she goes on her own emotional journey.
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