Play it Safe, Mitch Kalisa’s masterpiece speaks a thousand words through a simple but powerful performance by Jonathan Ajayi

Writer/Director Mitch Kalisa’s live-action short film Play It Safe shares the story of Jonathan, a young black man who is made out of place in his middle-class London drama school. He is pigeon-holed and coaxed into playing a racial typecast in a fellow student’s play. However, he must now make the decision, should he challenge prejudice, or play it safe?

Having attended drama school himself, the story is influenced by his own personal experience. This is what allows for such a realistic and in depth story. The film successfully portrays a powerful message, especially considering the most crucial moment of the film features very minimal footage of Jonathan, and instead forces the audience into an uncomfortable position of being fully immersed and present. The closeups and lack of music in the final scene is what heightens the scene and really delivers the message successfully. 

The closeups and lack of music in the final scene is what heightens the scene and really delivers the message successfully. 

The film features Jonathan Ajayi who plays the role of chief antagonist in the BBC series Noughts + Crosses. He was also nominated by Screen Daily as one of the Stars of Tomorrow across the UK and Ireland.

In an interview Jonathan mentioned he was afraid of the backlash he would receive for accepting such a role. However, what pushed him to take the leap was when he confronted some friends who immediately could relate to the plot of the film. This solidified how important this film would be for his community. 

This solidified how important this film would be for his community. 

Due to the phenomenal directing by Mitch Kalisa and acting by Jonathan Ajayi. Play It Safe has won the Oscar Qualifying Grand Jury Award for Narrative Short at South by Southwest® (SXSW®). The film also has been selected for numerous Oscar and BAFTA qualifying festivals including (BFI) London Film Festival, Telluride, Nashville, Palm Springs, AFI, and many more. 

Judy Ibelhauptaite, Film Reporter Just Celebrity Magazine

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