Festival Diary: Noel Clarke

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Noel Clarke in Toronto, Canada on September 14, 2016.

We spoke to Noel Clarke at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) about Brotherhood, which he directed, wrote, produced and starred in.

With Brotherhood at TIFF, do you feel more pressure to promote yourself as an actor, director or as a writer? Do your personal inclinations gear you to present yourself more as a director? Actor? Writer?
I don’t feel any pressure. I feel that sometimes because of the writing and directing that the acting gets ignored. Brotherhood is probably, bar Star Trek Into Darkness, my best film performance since Adulthood, 8 years ago. I do still see myself as an actor who does all the other things but I am now as much a writer, director, producer as I am an actor. In the UK, I get called jack of all trades, in the US a multihyphenate. Either way, I think acting sometimes suffers as it takes a very confident director to hire me.

Brotherhood was shot 8 years after Adulthood, and 10 years after Kidulthood. Was this a project that you had always been set on making to form a trilogy, or was it a proposition that you came to slowly? Can you conceive of yourself telling another story in this world?
This was never meant as a trilogy. It was meant as one film. When the first one was released and people said I had a voice I thought of the second and 2 years later it was released. After that point I had nothing to say about any of that world. 8 years and 3 kids later I had life experience and an emotional intelligence that allowed me to think about where that character could be.

Brotherhood, much like Kidulthood and Adulthood, possess heavy leanings towards the tragic, reflecting the consequences of action and choice in a gritty, compelling style. How important was it to you for these films to be both instructive and realistic? Are they one and the same?
Instructive came second and unintentionally. The films came from a place of truth. That’s where I’m from, I really know people like the characters in the movies, and that authenticity and the things that I have learned became informative and relatable to others I guess.

How much did your vision of Sam shift as you continued writing and playing the character for each installment?
I played Sam from the perspective of where I felt I was in my life. Kidulthood he was young and angry. That’s how I felt, not getting roles that I wanted. Adulthood he was a guy that was trying, but didn’t really give much of a f*ck about people doubting him – he knew what he was, even though others wouldn’t give him a chance, and that’s where I was too. People still weren’t giving me chances, I wasn’t getting to take part, so I wanted to take everything. I was still young and brash. Brotherhood, comes from an older, level-headed father who just loves what he does and will do anything for his family, and again, I am where Sam is.

What was the most vital element of influence on the ‘hood trilogy, Brotherhood in particular? 
Real life. All have elements of real life. Brotherhood is the most reflective in everyday of where I am as a filmmaker and as a man.

What would be the most gratifying or fulfilling comment or compliment someone could pay to you/ your film?
There’s no real compliments I get excited about. I guess the most satisfying thing would be for someone to say they were surprised by our results and say they didn’t expect that. I’d be thinking ‘I know you didn’t, I did though and that’s why I work so hard.’

If you could attend one screening at TIFF this year apart from your own, which screening would you pick?
They are too many to pick as I love films so much and there are so many I want to see, but I guess I’ll say A United Kingdom as it’s another British film and my brother Arnold Oceng is in it. We’re good friends and I support my friends.

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Clarke and his business partner at Unstoppable Entertainment, Jason Maza, began the morning of September 13 with breakfast at Soho House.

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(L) Arnold Oceng and Clarke. (R) Clarke watched on as his Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap was steamed at New Era Sports.

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Clarke inspected the fit of his new baseball cap.

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Clarke on Queen Street West.

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Arnold Oceng and Clarke cut loose backstage during the screening of Adulthood for the Manifesto Festival.

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Clarke sat for a Q&A session with Manifesto Festival at Innis Town Hall. “Manifesto is a non-profit, youth-powered platform that puts local artists on the map and unites, inspires and empowers young people through arts & culture.”

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After the Q&A, Clarke met with members of the audience.

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Driving back downtown, Clarke reflected further on some of the questions probed during the Q&A.

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Arnold Oceng and Clarke stopped off at The Hilton.

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Clarke was among a small selection of guests at a dinner with Cameron Bailey, the Artistic Director of TIFF.

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The next morning, Clarke was in a meeting discussing future projects.

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Clarke smiled as he Skyped with his children back in London.

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Clarke went to a Toronto Blue Jays game that afternoon, pictured here purchasing tickets outside the Rogers Centre.

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Before heading into the game, Clarke grabbed a street hot dog for lunch.

As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Photographer: Jessie Craig

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