Following its premiere at the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals, Cary Fukunaga’s screen adaptation of Nigerian author Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation has received rave reviews from top movie critics, with a predicted Oscar nomination, both for the movie and for star actor, Idris Elba. But more than a prediction, the movie has recorded an actual win as lead actor, Abraham Attah won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Actor or Actress at the 2015 Venice Film Festival.
Prior to joining Beasts of No Nation, 14 year old Abraham Attah was a vendor on the streets of Ghana. “The lead in ‘Beasts of No Nation’ was essentially a street vendor before we shot the film. [He had] zero film experience, little education…but he became a somewhat professional actor, which was astounding to watch, Fukunaga said during a talk at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year.”
“Attah plays the role with such convincing reality you’d swear he had been in front of the camera for years prior,” noted Jason Guerrasio.
Fukunaga also praised Attah for “driving” a particular scene in the movie, something he described as “probably the most intense thing” he ever asked the first time actor to do. “He had six or seven kids around him performing, and I watched him become a leader among these kids and make sure they stayed in focus and not f— up the shot so they didn’t have to do it over again.”
However, things didn’t come easy for Attah; he was one out of 30 kids gathered for the role ‘Agu’, the protagonist in the movie, and he had to learn fast to be number one. “We gathered a bunch of kids who had potential, about 30 of them … the kids are fast learners, they quickly understood that the better they did the longer they stayed,” said Fukunaga.
At the Venice press conference, Attah did admit feeling intimidated by British actor, Elba, “I felt like an ant,” he joked.
Working with a non-actor is not a new experience for Cary Fukunaga’s. In his debut feature, “Sin Nombre,” Fukunaga also cast non-actors in the lead roles.
Attah who has joined the league of young actors making their acting debuts in high profile projects, like Rachel Mwanza in ‘War Witch’, and Quvenzhané Wallis in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,’ is currently a student at a Ghanaian boarding school.
Hopefully, Attah’s acting career soars from this point on, he is alleged to be cast in a short film titled ‘Out of the Village’ by Jonathan Stein. The world gets to see him on screen for the first time on Friday, October 16, 2015, the official release date for Beasts of No Nation, both on Netflix, and in select USA theatres.