By Ellie Iorizzo, PA Senior Entertainment Reporter
Letitia Wright said she felt a responsibility to be a vessel for the voice of an asylum seeker while filming her upcoming project Aisha.
The Black Panther: Wakanda Forever actress, 28, stars as a Nigerian girl caught in Ireland’s immigration system alongside co-star Josh O’Connor in director Frank Berry’s latest drama.
Arriving at the film’s UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Wright told the PA news agency: “When I read the script from Frank I just thought this is a beautiful piece of art, well crafted and well put together and this is why I wanted to be a part of it.
#AishaMovie starring Letitia Wright and Josh O'Connor. Written and directed by the brilliant @frankberryirl.
A film that shines a spotlight on asylum and the dehumanizing system surrounding it.
A Sky Original, in cinemas and on Sky Cinema 17 November. pic.twitter.com/jaUP3g2YEP
— Sky Cinema (@SkyCinema) October 5, 2022
“I wanted to be a vessel for this story and I boldly asked to be a part of it and connected with him.
“I definitely felt a responsibility to be a vessel for her voice, I try to pick projects that will feel impactful for others, I try to find projects that will allow people to feel that a conversation is being started about something in the world that could be an injustice, grief, or falling in love for example.
“As filmmakers the aim is to take subject matters and put it into a film that will provoke conversation and stir up thought and stir up some sort of change.
“I think naturally how the world works and the way we are as creatives we are sensitive to all that is around us.”
Wright, whose on-screen friendship with O’Connor’s character blossoms throughout the film, described working with The Crown actor as “great.”
She told PA: “He’s gentle, he’s a kind artist and he’s so generous.
“It was a beautiful treat for me to see Conor (Healy) unfold before my eyes, I could see how Josh put his character together.
“He was so gentle in the way he dealt with Aisha, it is an unexpected connection in the film that I am so proud of.”
Director Berry explained how four years of research culminated in the film Aisha.
He told PA: “It was a long road, it developed out of my previous film about the Irish prison system and I learned the Irish prison system and immigration system are run by the same department so I decided to learn more.
“The way I make films is very collaborative, listening is a key part of the process.
“A lot of the people I met ended up in the film and were involved all the way through.
“The idea was to make something as true as we could, to get as close to realism as we could just to open up that space to talk and not to undermine by getting things wrong.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure it is as true as possible.
“Cinema can make you feel, it is very powerful, it’s harder to forget if you’ve felt something.
“The idea was to get the audience to feel something, to feel what it’s like to have state built barriers telling you that because you’re seeking asylum you can’t do this and you can’t do that, to ask the audience why are there barriers and I think it’s powerful to do that in a story.
“We tried to express through a story of human connection two people who get on really well and become friends and to see that very pure basic human connection and to see how this affects it to try and show the injustice of the situation.”
The director added that he allowed the relationship between Wright and O’Connor to evolve naturally on screen.
“I try not to impose literal direction,” he said.
“To allow the performances to bloom really and that is what happened with Letitia and Josh, you get out of the way and watch it evolve and before my eyes they’re two such incredible actors just to see it really come to life was beautiful.
“The purpose of doing this was to create a space for discussion and research very heavily and put something on the screen, a story worth telling, and get people to think and I think we’ve done that.
“There’s a lot of pride from everyone in the film.”
Aisha is released in cinemas and on Sky Cinema from November 17th.