Ibrahim Miiro’s My Day follows sixteen-year-old runaway Ally (played by Hannah Laresa Smith) as she tries to survive on the streets of London.
Ahead of the film’s screening at the Raindance Film Festival, Miiro joins us on Close-up Culture to talk about My Day and life on the darker edges of society. For ticket info
Q: You co-wrote ‘My Day’ with Shirley Day. Can you talk about that collaboration and the story you formed together?
A: Working with Shirley was great. Starting with the short film as the main source of inspiration and world building, we were able to expand on that universe with more characters and emotion while staying true to the short film. We added more conflict, complications and intrigue to add depth and accelerate the story into a definite direction.
In order to expand on the short film, we turned it from a single POV character story into a multiple POV story with the introduction of Frank. This addition both solved and created problems, but added depth to the whole story.
Working with a talented and experienced writer, who is also generous with knowledge and time, was a great experience.
Q: What side of London do you show in ‘My Day’?
A: Early in production we made a decision to try to avoid the iconic landmarks of London.
I wanted the story to be in the world of the characters. Growing up in London, it is common to live in a small world, where you never comes close to any landmarks – you only see them on TV.
It was important to us that the world feels authentic and not glossy.
London, like any large city, is complicated. Yet, at the same time, London is not like any other city. The gap between the rich and poor is huge, but in London they live next to each other. You can see the poor and homeless everywhere, north and south, but walk or dive 10 minutes and you enter a million pound neighbourhood.
We wanted to show the other side of London. It’s tough and rough to survive, but these are the best of us – the ones who lend a neighbour £20 when they are in a tight spot, even if they themselves are short on cash.
We wanted to show it all, the light and the dark.
Q: Can you tell us more about the character of Ally and the journey this film takes her on?
A: Like a lot of teenagers, Ally has a need to find and form her own identity in the world, but past traumas mean her journey in life is taking her down a dark road.
Ally wants meaning and friendship and love, but she seems to find all of these in people who only want to take advantage of her for their own gain.
Ally has a lot trust in other people and lacks confidence in her own abilities, as the film progresses Ally learns that her trust has to be earned and that she has the strength to change. She has the power and confidence to get out of this life.
Q: This is Hannah Laresa Smith’s first lead role in a feature film. How did you work with her to take on this role and embody Ally’s journey?
A: Having worked with Hannah on the short film, it made our decision [to cast her for the feature film] very easy.
It was important that Hannah could capture the emotional state of a 16 year old – the confidence, anxiety and vulnerability. The side still learning about yourself and the world around you. A lot was Hannah and I looking back at that time in our lives and incorporating these feelings into the story of Ally. When good ideas work they inherently spin and lead to interesting character moments, this process was crucial for developing Ally with Hannah.
Q: Why do you gravitate towards strong female characters and leads in your films?
A: The stories that interest me the most are about vulnerable people in society and how they cope and live.
Growing up in a family surrounded by strong women, this continued through my education, where the teachers and lectures that had the most influence on me were mainly female. I think this has greatly influenced my creative choices.
Q: We are living in volatile and uncertain times. What does this film say about modern day Britain and the trials facing our most vulnerable members of society?
A: Over the last 15 years, since the crash of 2008, I have seen this country change in many ways. The problem: the most vulnerable people in our society have been made to pay and suffer for that crash.
This is most evident in the current homeless situation in this country. It is now impossible to walk down the street without seeing people in doorways, parks, tents, etc.
The NHS is on its knees, which again has more implications for the most vulnerable in society – the elderly, disabled, and those needing access to mental health services and social care services have been left behind.
Our schools are struggling financially and exclusions are far too common. If you are on the edges of society, these problems can have catastrophic implications on your life.
However, I believe there is hope, even in something as horrible as food banks (which should not exist in this country). They show how a community will come together to help the most vulnerable and those in need in their community.
I see fewer people just walking by homeless people. They stop, give food, and sometimes – perhaps most importantly – engage in conversation. I think this is an example of how, as a country, we are slowly waking up to what is happening and we are trying to change things for the better.
With this film, we tried to highlight how the most vulnerable survive on the darker edges of society.
Q: ‘My Day’ will premiere at the Raindance Film Festival. What do you hope London audiences leave this film reflecting on?
A: I hope audience members leave the film with reflections on how to help those in need.
These are things that anybody can do, and we all can’t escape. When each audience member leaves the cinema at the end of the film, on the walk to the get the train or a bus, they will pass at least three or four homeless people of varying ages and sizes. I hope that the film makes people stop, have a chat or even spend £5-10 on a bit of food in a supermarket, which can keep someone going for another day.
I want people to leave with a classic but important thought: ‘There but for the grace of God, go I’.
You can see ‘My Day’ at the Raindance Film Festival in London (24 and 25 September). For ticket info
Title photo by Haasan Bitrim