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Inventive, observant ‘Dreaming Whilst Black’ leaves you wanting more

Adjani Salmon as Kwabena in "Dreaming Whilst Black."Anup Bhatt/Big Deal Films/A24/Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Showtime is running a small British gem called “Dreaming Whilst Black” that originally appeared on the BBC over the summer. About a millennial guy named Kwabena (series co-creator Adjani Salmon) trying to become a filmmaker in London, it’s an amusing, observant take on artistic ambition and compromise, and on being Black in the predominantly white film industry. It’s funny, poignant, and well-paced, with six episodes that leave you wanting more.

Kwabena is a dreamer, as the title has it, and we get to see some of his fantasies play out in short daydream sequences that quickly return to reality. His day job in recruitment is soul crushing, and — in the “whilst Black” part — offensive, too, as the micro-aggressions pile up. Those moments provide plenty of cringe comedy, particularly in the office scenes, before Kwabena quits at a karaoke work party that finds his co-workers belting out the N-word.


Hope for Kwabena’s filmmaking career arrives in the form of an old friend, Amy (Dani Moseley), who works at a production company and may be able to get him a pitch meeting. She, too, is Black in the film industry and encounters all kinds of uncomfortable situations at work, including white people wanting to touch her hair. And then there’s the discrimination, when it comes to a job promotion that her highly race-conscious boss gives to a less experienced white woman.

The rest of the ensemble around Kwabena, in addition to Amy, is warm and well-developed. It creates a rich counterpoint to the industry folks who’d rather see him write a script about Black hardships in the ‘hood than take on his passion project, “Jamaica Road,” a period romance set among Jamaican immigrants and based on his family history. He’s involved in a new romance with the charming Vanessa (Babirye Bukilwa), and he lives with his lovable cousin, Maurice (Demmy Ladipo), who is anxious about becoming a father as his pregnant wife, Funmi (Rachel Adedeji) moves closer to her due date. Inventive, honest, and concise, it’s an under-the-radar treat.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.