Young actress Bukky Bakray is up for not one but two BAFTAs this Sunday.
The movie is leading the charge at the British version of the Oscars, with seven nominations to its name, and no one is more surprised by this than the 18-year-old actress herself.
“When I made the film, a lot of us thought it was going to end up on YouTube,” Bakray admits to 9Honey Celebrity.
“You don’t think a lot about the future, you don’t think about it being at LFF [London Film Festival] or TIFF [Toronto International Film Festival], or being at the BAFTAs.
“I remember when someone said, ‘Are we going to put the film up for awards?’ and me and my co-stars all started laughing, we thought that was a joke,” she recalls.
And while the actress tells 9Honey Celebrity she doesn’t take on roles for possible awards, she also never considered herself accomplished enough to even rate a second look by those coming up with the nominations.
“I always thought those categories, like leading actress, you would have had to have done 10 projects or this and that… I just thought there was a list of boxes you needed to tick and I didn’t think I ticked those boxes,” Bakray says.
But the actress says she is grateful: “I feel really humbled in a weird way because this is my first performance.
“I know I’m really new to the industry and I feel really blessed to have people see the light in me at such an early age.”
The movie Rocks celebrated diversity on-screen and inclusion off-screen, having been made with a crew that were 75 per cent female.
The project Bakray took on after her debut film, Self Charm, also featured a predominantly female crew, having been written and directed by Ella Greenwood.
And while it’s a year where the BAFTAs are making history by recognising four women in the Best Director nominations, after controversy surrounding last year’s all-male directing category, both Bakray and Greenwood tell 9Honey Celebrity the recognition is long overdue.
“I think you can see amazing directors like Greta Gerwig or Patty Jenkins on Wonder Woman and think, ‘Oh, the industry is great, it’s so representative.’ But then you go and see the actual statistics,” Greenwood says.
“And even now, history is being made [at the BAFTAs] — it’s like, ‘That’s crazy! No, that’s still so slow.’ It’s taken so long to get here and the fact that we’re only sort of starting to make those changes in 2021 is crazy.”
“In all honesty, I haven’t noticed the gaps because being on the Rocks crew, which was centred around women and then the Self Charm crew, which was centred around women so being around women has always been the norm for me… but I do see it now moving on and going on and doing other projects,” Bakray says.
Employing women on her set was a conscious decision for Greenwood — an actress turned producer/director.
“I remember being on a commercial and there literally being about 50 men and three women, and they were makeup and costume. I just thought, ‘Well, if I have the choice to try and change that, and to hire incredible talent that isn’t represented often, then I’m definitely going to do that,'” she tells 9Honey Celebrity.
Another thing Greenwood is hoping to change is the stigma and representation of mental health in film — covering issues like self-harm in the movie Self Charm.
“I really struggled with my mental health as a young teen. And I’ve always loved film and TV shows. I have been so influenced by the media and by characters I saw and storylines I saw [but] seeing that lack of representation, and also it wrongly represented, has such a harmful impact,” she says.
“I feel like it was so stigmatised growing up that I didn’t speak about my mental health with anyone — my friends, my family — so sometimes when I’m writing the script, it’s like I’m getting those thoughts out for the first time, I hadn’t even processed them.”
Moving forward, both women hope to do important work and leave a legacy in the arts industry. But in the meantime, Bakray especially is going to make the most of it while she can.
“Right now, I’m in Birmingham shooting a BBC and Netflix series called You Don’t Know Me — really cool cast, really nice people, so I’m excited for that,” she tells 9Honey Celebrity. “And I’ve been in conversation with a lot of filmmakers and stuff so the future is looking really promising, which I’m really grateful for.
“[The BAFTAs] is going to be an interesting day and I’m going to try and enjoy it because I know stuff like this doesn’t happen often.”