Director: Elliot Barnes-Worrell
Written by Elliot Barnes-Worrell and Hasti C
Produced by Fiona Lamptey
Ziba, Ché, Neela and Kofi use their devices to take trips through their memories to settle an argument.
Directors Note/Production Story:
Film4 approached me after reading a treatment for my feature film and asked me if I had a sci-fi idea. I didn't! I then met up with Hasti who is one of my favourite poets and knows loads about sci-fi, especially women of colour and their incredible contribution to Sci-fi, Octavia Butler, etc... We sat in a pub and talked about what Sci-fi interests us – COWBOY BEBOP, STAR TREK, ARRIVAL being some of them.
And then over a couple pints of Guinness we kind of came up with the whole world of our project. Hasti had never written for the screen before, but her mind is incredible and thinks poetically, which I think really comes across in DIGGING. Also because she hasn't written for screen before she had a freedom to her imagination that wasn't structured like a script.
We then went into Film4 and met Fiona and there was a real vibe, we didn't want to write a film that was hopeless, we wanted to write a film that showed PoC in a beautiful way. Fiona was incredible at interrogating the script and we (all three of us) worked together to dive into our idea and get something real on the page.
Me and Hasti then sat down and wrote it, simple as... Hasti created this rhythm in our film that feels like a poem. It's the first time I've ever written with someone and it was a really exciting process; we both kept feeding into this film.
Then it was for me to direct it. I held onto the things that Hasti, Fiona and I had discussed and what Hasti and I had talked about in the pub all those months before - character and beauty. That’s what was at the core of the idea, the original seed. So, with the help of brother Yaw and a really generous cast and crew that's what we aimed for. I worked with my favourite DoP, Catherine Derry, and we worked quite instinctively, letting the cast and most importantly the sun guide us in where we moved the camera next and what we captured. There were certainly challenges shooting in October outside on an allotment during a pandemic, but the cast and crew came together, and we didn't miss a shot.
Yaw has to take a lot of credit for how the film ran, as he kept balance to that set and without him, we wouldn't have been able to achieve what we did. He held it down the entire time.
The back cover of sci-fi anthology Octavia’s Brood, edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, reads: ‘Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing visionary fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time.’
I mostly write poems, but I’ve always loved reading the revolutionary possibilities and radical invention in science fiction, especially when written by people from marginalised communities. It seems to me that, if you see and viscerally understand the ways in which the present system does not serve you, reimagining it completely can sometimes be the only way out. In a panel on which Octavia Butler appears in 2002 at UCLA, she talks about how it’s dangerous to assume that we’ll keep doing the same things the same way in the future, without leaving some room for change. Women writers like Octavia Butler, Marge Piercy and Ursula Le Guin have created fully fledged alternative universes which totally subvert the power dynamics we live under now, and show us that things don’t have to always be the same way. Their writing brings to life wild feminist utopias, planets with completely reimagined gender systems, or, in the case of Octavia Butler in Parable of the Sower, shows us a world close to our own, while offering us an alternative approach, and therefore an alternative future.
When Elliot first approached me about co-writing this project, I knew that we had to make something hopeful, something that could help dissipate the apocalyptic dread that was around even before the pandemic. That’s something that sits at the heart of this film: people of colour working together to build something good out of a tough near future. We worked together really well—the plot came together in almost one single evening; my flowery, abstract ideas and love of food-growing were balanced really well with Elliot’s filmmaking knowledge, and I was amazed at the way he was able to sculpt dialogue into lyrical moments of humour and drama, as well as lead the brilliant cast and crew to ultimately produce what I think is a really beautiful film. Working with Film4, especially with the guidance of Fiona and Yaw, has been an incredible and humbling experience, and I am hugely grateful to have been part of it.
As well as touching on more recognisable themes like the unreliability of memory and the way your senses can transport you to a different time, I hope most of all that for the viewer DIGGING is experienced as a small hopeful moment, and that it leaves behind a sweet taste.
Elliot Barnes-Worrell - Writer and Director
Elliot Barnes-Worrell is an award-winning actor, writer and director from South East London. His pilot, WINTER, was on the Brit List 2019. Elliot wrote for The Royal Court’s My White Best Friend (and Other Letters Left Unsaid) in 2020, which received 5 stars in the Guardian. He loves grime music, anime and plantain.
Hasti C - Writer
Hasti C is a British-Iranian poet and screenwriter living in South East London. Her poems have appeared in the Poetry Review and PERVERSE mag, but most often at open mic and poetry night FRESH LIP. Most recently, she has recorded a one-off radio show for Montez Press titled The Cyborg Archives, which explores the idea of the cyborg as a being of mixed heritage. DIGGING is her screenwriting debut.
Catherine Derry, Director of Photography
DIGGING marks Catherine Derry and Elliot Barnes-Worrell’s seventh collaboration. Catherine shot half of the recent acclaimed BBC/HBO Lena Dunham series INDUSTRY and has shot many award-winning features including Michaela Coel starring BEEN SO LONG. She is currently shooting a psychological horror featuring Iola Evans and Asa Butterfield. Aside from her film and HETV drama work, Catherine also shoots commercials and music videos.
Yaw A. Basoah, Producer
Yaw established Dark Pictures to produce distinctive films that explore the dark side of human nature. He has produced a number of well received shorts. He recently completed his debut feature, ZERO, a collaboration with BAFTA nominated filmmaker Faye Gilbert, commissioned through Microwave (Film London / BBC Film / BFI) and is gearing up for production on David Alexander’s debut feature FREE (BFI). His Uncertain Kingdom short ISAAC AND THE RAM (Director - Jason Bradbury, Writer – Edward Cripps) screened at BFI Flare this spring. Yaw has a further compelling slate of culturally significant projects in development, with both emerging and established writers, filmmakers, musicians and visual artists, predominantly from underrepresented backgrounds.
In recent years Yaw has been named a Screen Star of Tomorrow, received a BFI Vision Award and graduated from the Ashridge Executive MBA for the Creative Industries as the BFI/Headstart Scholar. He sits on the advisory board for Raising Films, is a member of PACT’s Film Policy Group and is mentored by Oscar winning director and Turner Prize winning visual artist, Sir Steve McQueen CBE.
Martins Imhangbe (Kofi)
Afsaneh Dehrouyeh (Ziba)
Tsion Habte (Neela)
Bradley Banton (Ché)
Doreene Blackstock (Akosua)
Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù (Kwesi)
FILM4 presents a FRUIT TREE MEDIA production in association with DARK PICTURES "DIGGING"
MARTINS IMHANGBE AFSANEH DEHROUYEH TSION HABTE BRADLEY BANTON
DOREENE BLACKSTOCK ṢỌPẸ DÌRÍSÙ
Composer CONRAD KIRA Sound Designer SIMON GERSHON
Colourist VANESSA TAYLOR Editor STELLA HEATH KEIR
Hair & Makeup Designer ANNIE LITTLE Costume Designer PAIX ROBINSON
Choreographer VERONA PATTERSON Production Designer ELENA ISOLINI
Director of Photography CATHERINE DERRY Line Producer EARLEATHA OPPON
Executive Producers LAUREN DARK & DAVID KIMBANGI
Produced by FIONA LAMPTEY & YAW A. BASOAH Written by ELLIOT BARNES-WORRELL & HASTI C Directed by ELLIOT BARNES-WORRELL