From the Hood to Sci-Fi: Daniel Kaluuya’s ‘The Kitchen’ Redefines British Cinema with Bold Directorial Debut

The Academy Award-winning actor hopes his new film will bring the reality of Black Britain to new audiences.

"The Kitchen" is a compelling sci-fi film, written and co-directed by Academy Award-winning actor Daniel Kaluuya and Kibwe Tavares, that delves into the stark contrast between the affluent and underprivileged in a dystopian London. Scheduled to stream on Netflix from January 19, Kaluuya and the lead actor, British rapper Kano, shared insights about the project's origins and the impact they aspire it to have in an interview with BET.

 "We wanted to use our imaginations but ground it in the London that we know to tell a very universal story and create a future world that is both familiar and different.”  Kaluuya shares with BET.

The film depicts a London where the gap between rich and poor has been stretched to its limits. All forms of social housing have been eradicated, and only The Kitchen remains, a community that refuses to move out of the poverty-stricken place they call home and frequently falls victim to brutal police raids.

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Staples, played by Hope Ikpoku Jnr from the film “Top Boy,” is a proud resident of The Kitchen who leads a young band of bike riders reminiscent of contemporary smash and grabbers. They steal food supplies and deliver them back to the community.

“We have Staples, the leader of the crew having a just reason for doing what he does.  He was doing basically the right thing in the wrong way. What we needed to show was the depth and how it was grounded in reason. His actions aren’t senseless, “says Kaluuya, who explains he wants to depict the human complexities that challenge stereotypes. 

In the heart of The Kitchen, you encounter Izi, a solitary soul driven by necessity, yearning for escape. Alongside him is Benji, a 12-year-old grappling with the loss of his mother, searching for a sense of family. The film intricately weaves their stories as this unlikely duo navigates the challenges of forming a connection within a system that seems determined to keep them apart. The character of Izi, portrayed by British rapper Kano (Kane Robinson), undergoes a dramatic transformation, offering a compelling reflection on the journey.

“The journey that Izi goes on challenged me. He starts off as this guy that's just looks out for himself and really doesn't care about anyone else in the community. When he takes a shower, he uses up all the water.  He can’t wait to get out of this place, even meeting Benji his guard is up. He probably knows what the right thing is to do but just can't do it.  But slowly, slowly,  like just peeling layers off he eventually opens up and completely transforms.”

Benji is played by newcomer 12-year-old Jedaiah Bannerman, who Kaluuya found through an audition “His aunt told him to audition,” reveals Kaluuya. “He's got such charisma, such joy, such life but he also has emotional depth, like a deep, deep soul to him.”

The story of “The Kitchen” is inspired by both Kaluuya's and Kano's realities.  Kaluuya was brought up in the projects and didn’t know his dad -who lived in Africa- until he was 15. Kano spent his childhood living in one of the highest children’s poverty-stricken communities in the UK.  Kaluuya says it allowed them to infuse authenticity into the characters and depict the reality of police brutality and kids without fathers in “The Kitchen.”

  "Growing up in the area that I grew up in, seeing kids being stopped and searched by the police, seeing people being beat up, everyone had a story. We really focus on the police's face by the end of the film , tracking the randomness of attacks, the, unexplainable nature of it, and making sure it reflected  how it felt, not just intellectualizing it because intellectualizing doesn't make it stop”, Kaluuya shares.

 The new film director continues, “It was like an aggregate of the stories of all the boys that I grew up with. There wasn’t one dad in my block, so everyone was going through something similar with different levels of absentee and it was how I represent all of them.”

During the interview, Kaluuya and Kano discussed the emerging trend of British Black actors, directors, and writers bringing the reality of Black Britain to a global audience. They see themselves as diaspora representatives, sharing stories that resonate within the UK and across cultures.

"We are representatives of the whole diaspora. I work a lot in America, a lot of my people are there, so it's always that thing where we connect the dots and show we are akin."

"The Kitchen" promises to be more than just a sci-fi tale set in the future; it reflects societal divides, love in adversity, oppression, and the struggle for identity. With its release on January 19, viewers can expect a gripping narrative and a piece of cinematic magic that goes beyond the screen, challenging perceptions and contributing to the ongoing dialogue about the complexities of the human experience.

Article and interview by Jazmyn Summers. Please don’t forget to subscribe to her Follow her @jaztalk1 on and

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