Oscar nominated, this film tells the story of Cornelius Walker whose life changed forever after the murder of Damilola Taylor

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Oscar nominated, this film tells the story of Cornelius Walker whose life changed forever after the murder of Damilola Taylor

The Background

The Guardian has been commissioning and creating contemporary short documentaries for several years now. 

I’ve become a bit of a fan, discovering stories about people and places I didn’t realise I cared about. 

Black Sheep is probably the best of the bunch, a powerful film that tells the story of Cornelius Walker, whose life is changed forever after the murder of Damilola Taylor. Cornelius lived in the same neighbourhood as Damilola, and like him was a black Nigerian and was 10 years old. 

Fearing for her son’s life, Cornelius’s mum moves the family out of London to what she hopes is relative safety, but Cornelius finds himself living on an estate run by racists.

What They Did

At the heart of director Ed Perkins’ film is a compelling and powerful interview with Cornelius. He talks directly to camera, artfully lit against a dark background. The camera stays close and intimate throughout. 

Cornelius tells his story as it happens, speaking with brave candour and providing vivid descriptions of events as they unfold. Each element of his story is told with beautifully filmed reconstructions that expressively bring to life his harrowing story. 

Part of what makes his story so interesting is that when confronted by horrific racist attacks by local gang members, Cornelius chooses not to fight them, but to become more like them to avoid persecution. 

As the story continues, he becomes involved with violence and racism against other black people and is left struggling to marry his real identity with the one he has adopted.

The Review

This film is 26 minutes long and proves that if you have a really good story and tell it well, relatively long films can work brilliantly online.

I personally found it a gripping watch. 

I think Cornelius’s honesty, bravery and charisma play a large part in why it works but it’s also a really good piece of filmmaking. 

Every stylistic element – cinematography, acting, music, production design, editing, work harmoniously to deliver a thought-provoking film about race and identity that I’m sure will resonate with many.

In Hindsight

Black Sheep has recently been nominated for an Oscar in the Short Documentary Category. 

I think it would be a worthy winner.

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Paul Gowers

Paul Gowers

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