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London schoolboy's struggle against racism could be Oscar winner

We’re on Rodeo Drive (you know, that place out of the shopping scene in Pretty Woman) looking for a bow tie. For the Oscars.

Cornelius Walker’s life has certainly changed since a chance meeting with filmmaker Ed Perkins, who suggested Cornelius tell his extraordinary story for a documentary.

That film turned into Black Sheep, now the favourite to win the Short Documentary category at this weekend’s Oscars.

Black Sheep was made after a chance encounter with a filmmaker. Credit: Instagram / Cornelius Walker

He’s trying to take it all in. Trying.

The 27-year-old has been invited to a stream of parties, designer Ozwald Boateng has apparently made him a suit for the show, and he’s going to be rubbing shoulders with his film idol Spike Lee.

His story as told in Black Sheep, with Cornelius talking straight to camera, and certain scenes re-enacted, is a powerful one.

He was a Peckham schoolboy at the time when Damilola Taylor, who lived a few minutes away, was killed on his way home from school.

Damilola Taylor was 10-years-old when he was murdered in south London. Credit: PA

They were the same age and both with Nigerian backgrounds.

Following the shockwaves Damilola’s death had in the community, his mother, fearing for her son’s safety, moved the family to an Essex village because she thought that would be better for her son.

She couldn’t have known that he would run into a gang of racists there who would abuse and persecute him.

  • Wishing Walker "the best of luck", Damilola Taylor's father, Richard, said he hoped the filmaker would win an Oscar and "bring it back to the UK", and use his achievement to work with young people to help deter them from crime.

Black Sheep is the story of the extraordinary lengths Cornelius went to to try and fit in.

How he bleached his skin and wore blue contact lenses.

And how he learned to love himself, to appreciate his black identity and how he hopes his story will stop young black children from going through what he did.

Cornelius has become a filmmaker himself. He lives back in London and he is a confident, funny man who intends to seize his Oscars moment.

He never did get that bow tie from Rodeo Drive. It was $250!

"I’m not quite in that league yet," he says.

If Black Sheep wins, that could all change.