As drama schools in Britain are accused of hypocrisy in recent anti-racism statements, Mitch Kalisa’s stunning debut short film, Play It Safe, raises the curtain on prejudice in the classroom. A disruptive, pressing window into institutional micro aggressions of perceivably liberal safe spaces, Play It Safe won the Oscar Qualifying Grand Jury Award for Narrative Short at South by Southwest® (SXSW®)
Coaxed into playing a racial typecast in a fellow student’s play, Jonathan is faced to either challenge prejudice, or play it safe.
Originally from Rwanda, Mitch Kalisa arrived in the UK as a child via Uganda. Mitch first explored his passion for film and theatre through acting before immersing himself in writing and directing as his creative calling. PLAY IT SAFE, his debut short film is influenced by his personal experience in drama school education, and how some perceivably liberal and safe spaces can brim with just as much ingrained prejudice.
An intimate and personal journey for the film’s lead, Screenstar of Tomorrow Jonathan Ajayi delivers a brutally blistering performance. Originally of BBC’s Noughts & Crosses fame, Jonathan had formatively also received prestigious drama schools training in London, recognising his role as an all too familiar experience.
At the helm of the development and production was Producer Chris Toumazou, founding partner of London’s award winning entertainment company, COMPULSORY. Having also attended The Arts Educational School with Jonathan Ajai respectively although in different years, their combined awareness led to the casting and production of the film using the school as its backdrop and resource. Working with the newly appointed Head Of Drama Julie Spencer, the team was able to tap into an authentic casting process, further emphasising the film’s honest approach.
Toumazou’s focus on discovering and breaking new voices in the narrative space has led to a track record of premiering work at SXSW, Berlinale, Sundance. A passionately acute awareness for relevant stories has defined the growing success of his burgeoning film department.
Shot on Kodak 16mm film, the cinematography was lensed by Jamie Ackroyd, another talent to watch. A London born Cinematographer who started off assisting on features and documentaries. He worked up shadowing the likes of Linus Sandgren (The Nutcracker) and Barry Ackroyd (Outlaw King).
Play it Safe has been selected for numerous Oscar and BAFTA qualifying festivals including (BFI) London Film Festival, Telluride, Nashville, Palm Springs, AFI, and many more.