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Top Wavers
Top WaversCourtesy of Comfort Adeneye

An intimate look at the friendships formed by young black British boys

Filmmaker Comfort Adeneye explores self-confidence and solidarity through waves, fades, and fresh trims

In a climate punctuated by Morley’s chicken box knife crime campaigns and London Met’s ‘gang matrix’ databases, the stereotypes surrounding young, black boys are rife and reductive. It’s a subject explored by filmmaker Comfort Adeneye, whose short film Top Wavers shines a light on the real lives of these young men in the capital, whose race is often subject to cruel and two-dimensional biases.

Speaking to Dazed, Adeneye explains how the film “depicts the reality of how black British boys, who have grown up in urban communities, are not always interested in crime-gang life.” In it, the boys – of African and Carribean heritage – are shown as living your average teenage life: revision notes are stuck up on the walls, Nike sliders on the floor, tubs of ‘Sportin Waves’ hair gel are about, and – of course – there’s FIFA on the TV. They ruminate over heading to a party in east London, joking and laughing together. At a time when the police are blaming young black brits and their culture for violence and crime, this representation of young black British boys is refreshing and affirming. Telling a story of self-confidence, shared solidarity, and close friendship, it brings us a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of a light-hearted conversation between three friends on the possibilities of a night in its youth and perfecting their wave game.

“Imagine not going to a party because you ain’t got a trim!” one guy jokes, raking on his pal. “Mr. drippy drippy!”

Adeneye’s short film was commissioned by Dazed as a part of the New Creatives programme run by the BBC, co-funded by Arts Council England and BBC Arts. The programme focuses on giving opportunities to young artists from under-represented backgrounds in the arts and broadcasting.

“Most black boys, when together, have unmatchable banter to lift their spirits,” Adeneye says. “The inspiration behind this film has stemmed from personal problems I’ve had in terms of comparing my appearance to others. This comparison has been through both social media and real life. Early this year I wrote a diary entry to myself, letting out how I am feeling. From this I have been having constant mental battles with myself on who I actually am,” Adeneye adds.

We hear from each of the three boys of the importance their trims and fades have to them. One of the boys is self-conscious and worried about his hairline, another is uninterested and not social media centric, and one is so self-confident he dances between the line of confident and cocky.

Using a compelling blue light akin to that from a television screen, Adeneye says the palette “completes the complexion of the actor’s skin, emphasising how beautiful black skin looks on camera.” Close up shots of the waves are dispersed throughout,­ and the light lands beautifully, highlighting each intricate part of their hairstyle.

“I’m drippy, you know me already,” says one of the boys. This film is about more than sauce, drip, or waves; it’s an image of real black British boys in their truest form.

See Top Wavers as part of the New Creatives programme on BBC iPlayer here.