How I Got Here: Crackstevens

Filmmaker Akinola Davies (aka Crackstevens – named for his love of Cat Stevens) has created videos for the likes of Blood Orange and Kate Tempest. Here he talks about growing up between Nigeria and Kent, and the challenges faced by people of colour in the creative industries

Watch any of Akinola Davies’ films, and it’s immediately clear that identity sits at the heart of his work as a director and filmmaker. His own story plays a large part in this approach, having grown up in Nigeria until his early teens and then moved to the UK by himself to go to school in the Kent countryside, where he was one of only a handful of people of colour.

The first signs of an interest in creativity emerged during school when – in the pre-Instagram era – Davies would buy disposable cameras to take photos of his Christmasses in Nigeria and show his classmates. He would later get hold of an analogue camera and teach himself how to compose photos, before taking his first film elective while doing media studies at Brighton Uni. From there his film career developed slowly, via a filmmaking workshop at the New York Film Academy, assisting directors such as grime video royalty Tim and Barry, and a talent-scouting job at Daily Motion.

He has since gone on to direct a film for Kenzo, music videos for high profile artists such as Kate Tempest, explored the terribly on-trend world of bootlegging in fashion with his recent film Boot/Leg which debuted at this year’s Art Basel in Switzerland, and ventured into the realm of animation with his music video series collaboration with illustrator Joe Prytherch for fledgling electronic act Franc Moody.

Here he talks to CR about his cautious entry into the creative industries, the influence of his formative years in Nigeria on his work, and what the film industry needs to do to become more accessible to diverse filmmakers.