Genna Chanelle Hayes has been behind many independent productions since 2014. Each of Hayes’ projects comes with a message aimed to heal our world in some way, be it one about human rights, sustainability, or equality. Her first feature film, Akoni is no different.
Appealing to a wide audience, Akoni’s powerful message is subtly delivered by the plot, starring two lead characters from opposite worlds, yet with strong character development that portrays just how alike they are. Hayes plays Violet, the model who is judged by outsiders as having it all, when her reality is loneliness, grief, and lack of purpose.
Kit Esuruoso as Akoni is also judged by outsiders – firstly, as he is homeless, and secondly, when his past as a refugee is revealed. His reality is also loneliness, grief, and lack of purpose. The differences between them of course being their positions in life and their privilege. Akoni has a lack of purpose only as he is systemically disempowered, whereas Violet is empowered but finds no meaning behind her purpose.
Both have suffered grief and their chance encounter allows each to find purpose in their lives. Akoni is living on the streets after escaping Nigeria as a refugee and is being harassed by a pair of drunks when Violet, in sticking up for him soon finds herself as the victim. In turn, Akoni comes to her rescue. There is little dialogue between the pair however the scenes, the atmosphere, and the actions of each communicate their connection.
The music of Nigerian composer Maria Alfonsine and the landscapes of Ghana (as it could not be filmed in Nigeria) by cinematographer Calum Stewart bring depth to the emotional scenes, and contrast to the apartment and street-living landscapes of Australia. However, the beauty of Australia in all its glory is found in one particularly magnificent scene where they go hiking together, and in the life opportunities presented.
If you have been saddened recently by the recent events in Kabul and the plight of the Afghan Refugees, or of the many stories of displaced refugees coming to Australia the past few decades, this incredible story (although fictional) shows what life is like once the media attention is over. It dispels preconceived ideas of who is homeless, and all the media myths about refugees not working hard, or not wanting to integrate into Australian society.
Palace Nova Eastend will be hosting a premiere screening followed by an in-cinema Q&A with stars Rashidi Edward and actor/director Genna Chanelle Hayes on Sunday October 10.
Click here for bookings.