I Am Joseph [Tomisin Adepeju, UK, 2019]
I Am Joseph follows a carpenter named Joseph whose fiancée, Mary, has revealed that she is pregnant and that the father is God. The film establishes early on that it's the story of Christ, updated to a more modern context and told through the eyes of Joseph as he deals with this strange and unbelievable revelation.
Director Tomisin Adepeju’s approach to tell the well-known story from Joseph’s perspective is intriguing and Michael Akinsulire, who plays Joseph, is the highlight of this film, giving a conflicted and angry performance.
The most compelling scenes are in the opening act where Joseph is by himself, reflecting on this revelation and figuring out how to respond to the situation. Did his fiancée have an affair? Can it be that his child has been conceived immaculately, a true miracle? Is his child the Son of God? The scene in which he is working and starts to destroy his creations perfectly demonstrates the confusion and turmoil that he is going through.
Adepeju highlights these raw moments with perfect cinematography (provided here by Miles Ridgway), the combination of a grim and dark create a depressing atmosphere. There's very little light, and what light there is comes naturally or from candles, perfectly symbolising Josephs inner turmoil as he feels that his life is so devoid of light. These moments contain almost no dialogue, but Akinsulire’s performance tells the us everything we need to know.
Supporting actors Asmara Gabrielle and D. K. Ugonna, who play Mary and the stranger David respectively, bring equally compelling performances. Gabrielle does something interesting with Mary that is not often seen, revealing a quiet power through her visible frustration with Joseph who refuses to believe her. Ugonna is a much-needed voice of reason for Joseph, softly spoken and understanding as he ultimately helps him come to terms with the realities of the situation.
I Am Joseph is a well-crafted film that explores internal conflicts and the emotional struggles that a person can go through in the most extreme and unbelievable of circumstances. Adepedju brings a new perspective and freshness to a well-worn story and, combined with the powerful performances from its cast, I Am Joseph is a truly unique film.
'I Am Joesph' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2020.