'It's my first time at a film festival, and I almost didn't make it. I almost wasn't alive...'
Share This Article:
Amongst the recognisable faces at Cannes this year is m.a.double, a filmmaker whose history might set him apart from the rest. After all, being kidnapped twice in one day, the first time by his best friend, the second by his business partner, is unlikely to be something that he has in common with the majority of those tripping down the red carpet in the French Riviera this week. Ready 4 Whatever, titled in reference to a Tupac song, tells the story of a gangster underworld, where guns, kidnapping and violence are a way of life. It is a world that m.a. knows well. Growing up in Handsworth, Birmingham, it wasn’t difficult for him to fall into the trap of criminality after his parents’ divorce when he was 13. His father was a business owner, he says, “But after the divorce we moved into the rougher part (of Handsworth), and all the money that he had left with him. “At that point I had to start sticking up kids at school for money, so I could eat lunch.” Stealing lunch money eventually turned into bigger dealings, although m.a. is careful not to say what exactly. “I dabbled,’ is as much as he’ll say. “I dabbled in a lot of things... I was making a load of money.” He’s philosophical about this, and about the reasons behind the descent into criminality of those growing up with similar backgrounds: “If you’re starving,” he says, “you are gonna get involved, and that’s just a fact of life. “My brother’s doing seven years, my cousin’s doing 16 years. We’re all from that bottom of the barrel world where it’s rough, it’s messed up.” Although he doesn't feature in Ready 4 Whatever, m.a. will be taking a lead role in future projects - including Picture Me Rollin, his next film. He plays the “bad guy”, he says wryly, “because that’s who I was rather more familiar with.” Ready 4 Whatever, m.a. admits, is partly autobiographical: “I take real experiences but I make a fake story out of it. I don’t want to expose real characters or anything. "One of the things is that the criminal game, there’s no security in it. You don’t know who to trust and who’s lying, who’s telling the truth, and you have to watch your back all the time. That's why there's a load of kidnapping involved, shootings and ultimatly death and jail." Ready 4 Whatever was shot whilst he was on bail over the smuggling into Britain of a suspect package (after 16 months of surveillance and a five day trial he was found not guilty last summer). He now wants to use his experiences to warn others about how his former lifestyle is not the way forward. He doesn’t have to think twice about the worst thing that happened to him. “It was when I got kidnapped twice in one day,” he says. “That was the worst experience.” He tells of going to collect a debt from a friend, having a knife put to his throat and being forcibly taken to an abandoned house where he was accused of extortion and threatened with dogs. He says: “If they’d let them go I’d have been food. “They told me to get my business partner on the phone and come through to the area, so my business partner came...” The arrival of m.a.’s business partner in a tinted Jeep meant escape – but that wasn’t the end of the story. “He automatically put the blame on me for the whole situation,” he says. “And then he carried me off to his crew.
- Article continues below...
- More stories you may like...
- Legendary actor Richard Dreyfuss and director Shelagh McLeod discuss Astronaut, humanity and space travel
- 'A Girl from Mogadishu' director on the power of testimony
- Hollywood two years on from #MeToo: where can we go from here?