‘Hyper-masculine grime artists are sensitive too,’ says acclaimed filmmaker Edem Wornoo.
As well as working with acts like Wretch 32, he also contributed to the culture by directing the music video for and Dave’s Brit award-nominated song Clash last summer.
Therefore he knows all too well about seeing Black British rap and grime stars behind-the-scenes as much as in front of the camera.
His understanding of these musicians is what helped him create the new Sky short film, Butterfly Affect, as well as his own upbringing.
The stunning 13-minute piece follows Iris, a young Black man living in London who contends with his passion for ballet while also having his eyes opened to the grittier side of life by his older cousin Prince.
‘I wanted to convey a certain impasse that I feel a lot of Black men go through which is based on my own upbringing, and I grew up in an environment quite similar to Iris where I had to adopt certain behaviours and embody a certain type of masculinity to remain safe as survival mechanisms,’ Edem told Metro.co.uk.
He continued: ‘When I went to uni and started making films, I found that I had to do the opposite in order to make my predominantly white colleagues feel comfortable around me and dispel any preconceptions they might have had about me because of how Black men are perceived in the media.
‘I kind of code-switched in that space but I found I was neither of these people. I wasn’t this person that had to make these people feel comfortable in one space, and I wasn’t necessarily this hype-masculine individual in this other space. So I wanted to make a film about the impasse and especially with Black men it’s generally heightened.’
Edem explained that he began writing Prince as a hyper-masculine male like the ones he grew up around, but felt it was a ‘disservice’ because he realised those same boys are still sensitive beneath the hard exterior.
‘So I felt I had to bury a piece of gold under all that hyper-masculine exterior in order to truly represent these people,’ he explained.
‘Through the work in which I’m doing, I’m providing a voice to represent the people that exist in these spaces but they’re not really able to always exhibit that sensitive, artistic, more feminine side of themselves.’
One particular scene sees Edem marry violence with grace as the two sides of Iris’ identity clash in his older and younger years.
Sharing the most challenging part of the scene, the filmmaker said: ‘We rewrote it on set. Iris initially didn’t take it to such a violent place, he was more so goaded by his older cousin to exhibit the violence only when it’s necessary.
‘That scene was something I was quite nervous about conveying to the actor Noah, because he had to do something that was quite violent and you never know how you’re going to articulate that to someone who is quite young and you go through that feeling of is it even right to introduce him to that.
‘Lucky for us Noah is so mature and understanding.’
Edem is still reeling from the success of his work on Stormzy and Dave’s Clash music video, with the song reaching number two on the UK charts, giving us all the quotable one-liners and landing a nomination at this year’s Brits.
It was an eye-opening experience in more ways than one, as Edem explained: ‘Working with a lot of these rap and grime artists who often present a similar hyper-masculinity to what I grew up around, you actually find that a lot of people in these environments have a sensitive side to them also, but it’s not something that often comes across in the music.’
He added: ‘It’s an honour to be honest, to be able to collaborate with two giants that are presenting a perspective on Black British music globally and that is a beautiful thing. What is nice about Clash is it is a distinct video and has a [unique] vision to it. Grateful to have been involved in that moment.’
However, it wasn’t all fun and games as Edem was forced to miss out on the heartwarming scenes of Stormzy and Dave racing each other.
‘It was bittersweet because we filmed Clash for three or four days but the day before we started shooting, I failed my driving test,’ he laughed.
Edem then joked: ‘It was a tough time in life.’
Able to laugh at his misfortunes, he added: ‘We were around all these beautiful cars and I actually told them like, “Guys, I’ve got my driving test, you’re gonna let me drive these cars aren’t you?” and I failed – and it was a bad fail too in the first few seconds.
‘I came back so early that it was embarrassing.’
The Butterfly Affect, directed by Edem Wornoo and starring Jidiael Stiling, Noah Hicks and Shadrach Agozino, is available to watch on Sky Arts and NowTV.