Coming Of Age Through The Lens Of Rick Famuyiwa

rza way.jpg

Illustration by Seun Ajibola

There was a period in the late 90’s and early 2000’s that ushered in an era of Hollywood films with predominantly black characters, writers and directors. These films highlighted issues pertaining to black culture and spoke to issues such as family, friends, love and career. I remember movies such as The Wood, Brown Sugar and Love and Basketball as favorites of mine and the influence led to my understanding of American society and how black people fit into the narrative. 

Over the years I had no idea who the architects of this period was and I recently found out Rick Famuyiwa was the director for many of these films. It was by coincidence that I came across his name given that I had heard his name but always assumed he was not a black director. Another interesting discovery about Famuyiwa was that he directed both The Wood and Brown Sugar, two movies that resonated with me as a young man.

Famuyiwa’s recent film is titled “Dope” and was received very well by audiences. I have been pushing off watching the film for a while and as I started to read more about the film last week, I came across Famuyiwa and his directorial work. Dope is another coming of age film and it is a continuation of his filmography. I’ve had an appreciation for his films because it presents the goals, struggles, and triumphs of its black characters. Famuyiwa is a Nigerian-American director, born to Nigerian parents and grew up in Inglewood California.

His directorship debut was the movie titled “The Wood”. I watched this film as a young man living in the City of Toronto. While the movie was based on friends living in Inglewood, California, the stories shared by the characters in the movie highlighted the importance of brotherhood and growth. I remember migrating to Canada and having to find new friends and some of the struggles I faced trying to fit in. The Wood resonated deeply because I could understand the bonds developed with new friends, pranks played and life filled with optimism.

Brown Sugar was the second film I watched in the early 2000’s directed by Famuyiwa. The movie focuses on two friends who everyone knows or feels should be together but the friendship is too strong to overcome and risk for the sake of a romantic relationship. While in Brown Sugar the two characters eventually do come together, this is not always reality. The lesson I took from this film is coming to terms with an internal conflict in which the main protagonist struggles to decide on following a passion or sticking with a comfortable job. 

I will be attending a few weddings this year and as they approach I reflect on us as young people figuring things out, making mistakes and ultimately forming ourselves as adults in this world. Famuyiwa has always done a great job highlighting these transitions through his films and as I get older they seem to have more depth than I ever recall. I still haven’t watched the movie Dope, but I do plan on catching it very shortly.

Ideas, FilmFemi Adeyinka