The film Wayfinder is the story of one young woman’s journey across Britain, her encounters with the people she meets along the way, and her internal exploration of identity through race, social class and economic mobility.
Directed by artist and filmmaker Larry Achiampong, I watched the Verve Pictures production at the end of July at Genesis Cinema in east London.
Wayfinder is like a high-quality oil painting that comes alive through film and draws on tradition, folklore and fairy-tale, as well as telling the contemporary story of a traveller.
The main character Perside Rodrigues moves from the north of the country to the south, through various regions of Britain. These scenes are divided into six chapters and are built around omnipresent dialogue that knits together an internal conversation about identity, class, race, economic displacement and social inequity.
The scenescapes are breath-taking and the extended camera pauses force you to slow down, reflect and drink in the surroundings. They include scenes from ancient paths of Hadrian's Wall, a housing estate in Wolverhampton, E Pellicci Café in Bethnal Green, and grand paintings from the National Gallery in London.
The final scene captures the sea at Margate, where the wanderer is seen using a calabash to gather up seawater and seemingly pour libation - a quintessentially Ghanaian/ West African practice.
There are other Ghanaian references to Larry's culture, which include an 'aunty' speaking Twi, a reference to 'Sankofa' - the Akan Adinkra symbol that says: 'it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind'.
Also important in the film is the tradition of the griot, which is played out through the haunting songs of the male figure at the start of the film.
"I built that mask, during the lockdown" - Larry
One of the elements I found fascinating about Wayfinder is how he draws on the symbolism behind Little Red Riding Hood – the girl in the red cape – but contemporises the story.
Little Red Riding Hood
The main character Perside was always dressed in red and sported a coat that mimicked a cape – just like the fairy-tale character. But unlike Little Red Riding Hood, Perside does not need to be rescued. She is resourceful, Larry explains during the post-film Q&A recently.
“… we are talking about a character who is self-sufficient,” he says. “In the first scene, Perside Rodrigues (the wayfinder) who plays ‘Red Riding Hood’, is putting the activated charcoal and cotton wool into the breathing apparatus. We are showing somebody who knows their way around the basics of survival.”
Larry explains further that the character was based on his sister and the inspiration for depicting her with a breathing mask came from real life situation.
“I built that mask, during the lockdown – in fact - I built a load of them for my family, including my dad [a key worker at the time].”
You can watch the film for yourself. The film is available on DVD and digital HD from 22 August via www.vivaverve.com