Recently, I heard a quote during a lecture – ‘Dreams are a privilege.’ The person was trying to debunk the idea of merit when a set of privileges keeps benefiting only a certain set of individuals while their lack keeps others far away from an equal starting ground. Written by Adjani Salmon & Ali Hughes, ‘Dreaming Whilst Black’ focuses on a similar narrative.

Starring Salmon in the lead role, this British comedy series follows Kwabena, who works in recruitment but is an aspiring filmmaker. Despite his deep knowledge and understanding of this art form, he has not yet cracked the code of how to get his film made. The series shows his journey to be a part of the industry while dealing with racial identity struggles every step of the way.

While initially just a pilot from 2021, this story was later developed into a series and was broadcast on BBC Three. Now, the season just premiered its last two episodes on Showtime from Paramount+. The writing has several under-the-surface observations that are fascinating and highly incisive. So, the following recap is a look into those details rather than merely a follow-up of its plot points.

Spoilers ahead!

Dreaming Whilst Black (Season 1) Recap:

What is ‘Dreaming Whilst Black’ on Showtime about?

‘Dreaming Whilst Black’ is about aspiring filmmaker Kwabena (Adjnai Salmon), who works in recruitment but dreams of telling stories through cinema. Despite being an underdog tale, the series avoids any cliches associated with such narratives. It brings in deep insights and a dollop of dark humor to keep us invested in Kwabena’s tragicomic journey.

Episode 1: The Dream

Kwabena’s days at the recruitment firm are fairly mundane. He has to work with his white colleagues, who are either ignorant or blissfully unaware of the lives of black people. Kwabena’s colleague, Adam (Alexander Owen), seeks his help in finding a film that his black girlfriend would like. Adam can think of only The Color Purple, 12 Years a Slave, and Precious, aka award-winning films that talk about struggles rather than joy. Their boss thinks of Green Book as a feel-good black film. On the other hand, interviewee Lewis (Will Hislop) shows hardly any promise. We see how Lewis can stay incompetent and work terribly at different jobs and still bag multiple opportunities. It’s not the same for Kwabena.

Nevertheless, Kwabena does not let these things make him lose hope in his passion project – Jamaica Road. It is a period love story about an immigrant from Jamaica who’s trying to survive in difficult times. On a bus ride to pitch this script, he gets taken by a woman. But he only imagines this romance in his head and does not act on it due to his low confidence. Eventually, he reaches the venue late and misses his spot to pitch his idea. But he meets his old friend Amy (Dani Moseley), who works at this production company. She agrees to pass Kwabena’s script to the development team.

The Opportunities

At the time, Kwabena was living with his cousin Maurice (Demmy Ladipo) and his wife Funmi (Rachel Adedeji). Since Funmi is pregnant, Maurice is overly protective of her health and well-being. The next day, Kwabena receives a text from Amy saying that the development team wants to meet with him. So, he bails on his office work and heads there while listening to a podcast about ‘The Directing Lens’. His meeting with the company execs went well. So, they ask him to come back again the next day. To prepare for this amazing opportunity, he bails on his game night plan with Maurice.

The following day, in his office, Adam seeks Kwabena’s advice about an intimacy issue he has with the black woman he is dating. Later, their white HR lady asks Kwabena to sit in the kitchen for his lunch of stew peas. She uses her professional politeness schtick to make him sit in the kitchen. Over there, he finds a South Asian woman having her lunch and gets the message. Later, his boss reminds him of his poor KPI. As a result, Kwabena gets anxious and does not even show up at his production company meeting – maybe also due to his fear of losing his source of income.

The Bad & The Good

Kwabena joins his colleagues in a bonding activity at a karaoke bar. Adam chooses a rap to sing along with Kwabena. He stops right before every N-word, and it looks like Kwabena is brought on stage just to fill in those gaps. Kwabena gets tired of being polite and the token black guy for his white co-workers. So, he declares he’s quitting right before the night ends. Later that night, he spots the woman he saw earlier on the bus. This time, he spots her getting off the bus. Her wig gets caught in the bus door. So, he helps her get it back. That’s how he gets an excuse to introduce himself to Vanessa (Babirye Bukilwa).

Episode 2: The Reality

Dreaming Whilst Black (Season 1) Recap & Ending Explained - hof
A still from Dreaming Whilst Black (2021)

Kwabena shows a presentation for Jamaica Road to his family in the hope of getting help in financing it. Unfortunately, they offer him very little funding – maybe because of having little hope in his pipedream. They find it hard to digest that Kwabena left a job he had and is now looking for money instead. So, Kwabena starts working as a food-delivery person for the time being. While he tackles his financial worries, Maurice works on his fatherhood ones. In the midst of this, Funmi offers Kwabena a chance to earn some extra money. He agrees to be the videographer at a celebration for her Aunty Lola’s 60th birthday. Knowing that Lola is rich, he decides to acquire his dream funding from this gig.

While delivering a food order, Kwabena bumps into his old friend William (Akemnji Ndifornyen), who has become an established feature film actor. Kwabena tries to hide his financial and career situation from him but soon gets exposed. Later, during his romantic night with Vanessa, they talk about their favorite films. She mentions Love & Basketball, and he mocks her choice. Maurice walks in, not knowing she is there. He ends up exposing that Kwabena is really into her. Meanwhile, Amy’s boss, Howard (Peter Serafinowicz), chooses a new white hire, Suzy (Ludia Rose Bewley), instead of Amy for a job as an AP. Even if Amy worked hard for this opportunity and was more skilled than this woman, she gets ignored.

The Funding

Finally, on the day of the anniversary shoot, Kwabena wants to work on a moving shot as Aunt Lola particularly asked him to. But Maurice, who is supposed to bring the equipment, forgets his job. So, as a last-minute hack, Kwabena decides to use a wheelchair to get the Lola’s tracking shot. However, otherwise, he spends his time speaking with guests instead of getting the footage. So, in the final result, he can show only the tracking shot and nothing else. So, Aunt Lola gets angry and refuses to pay him. But upon Funmi’s requests, she pays him peanuts. After spending that night with Vanessa, he wakes up to hear great news. William offers Kwabena a chance to get funding for his film through a sponsorship program where William is on the selection panel.

Episode 3: The Friends

On the day of the industry exec meet-up, Kwabena learns that Helen (Isy Suttie) is the founder of this diversity mixer sponsorship. While he understands the white savior nature of this gathering, he still decides to network with the present creatives. So, he walks up to Timothy Easley (Angus Wright) – a white filmmaker whose shows about black people have won him multiple awards and recognition. Kwabena shares his idea, and Timothy likes it. Later, Vanessa asks Kwabena for a dinner date with her and her friends in Kensington. Her plan comes at a time when he has almost no money in his bank account.

Nevertheless, Kwabena goes for a meeting with Timothy and gets a collaboration opportunity. Timothy makes it sound irresistible by mentioning that Idris (Elba) is slated to star in it. Timothy’s previous agent walks past them. She warns Kwabena to be vary of Timothy’s claims. Still, Kwabena accepts Timothy’s paid gig as a step up from what he is doing. Unfortunately, Timothy does not respond to him even after two weeks. While that thought is already on Kwabena’s mind, he joins Vanessa and her friends for dinner. They order so many items, and he orders a cheaper one. Besides, they make him feel conscious about his financial status.

Financial Status

Instead of bursting out his real feelings and getting back at her friends for making him feel broke, Kwabena pays the entire bill. However, after their dinner, he calls the bank and says that his credit card is stolen. Back home, he reads news about a drama, based on his idea, commissioned to Timothy. He believes that Timothy stole his idea and refused to give him the credit. So, he sends an email to Timothy, insulting him and his mother. Later on, he learns the reason Timothy was out of reach. It was because of his mother’s poor health. Timothy eventually hears Kwabena’s insulting messages and cuts ties with him. On the other hand, Amy struggles to be okay with highly incompetent Suzy getting the AP role over her. To patronize Amy even further,  Howard and Suzy expect her to share some uncontroversial stories that bear the spirit of inclusion.

Episode 4: The Birth

Kwabena’s aunt asks him to help her son – Dorvin to get a job. She worries about his new friends in London and hopes for him to get on a better path. That’s why she asked Kwabena to share Dorvin’s CV at his previous recruitment firm. Later, Kwabena bumps into Adam at a bar. The biggest issue in Adam’s life, at that point of his life, is his painful break-up with his black girlfriend! He annoys Kwabena with his bad poetry. Later, in the middle of his delivery job, he gets a call from Maurice for urgent help. Since Funmi’s water broke, Kwabena rushes to take them to the clinic.

In the pregnancy ward, Maurice ends up making a scene due to his over-protectiveness. So, Kwabena brings him out of the hospital. Eventually, Maurica opens up about his anxieties regarding fatherhood. Now that their baby is about to come into the world, he is worried whether he will be a good father. Kwabena tries to put his worries to rest. After that, Maurice returns to learn about a complication in Funmi’s pregnancy. Because of it, she ends up having a C-section. Eventually, she gets better, and they cherish the fact that they are parents.

The Migration

Meanwhile, Vanessa and Amy become friends. Amy opens up about the things that upset her about her production company work. She questions her decision to leave her home country to be in England. Sometimes, she also wishes to go back instead of being a choice for white folks to pat themselves for. Around this time, Vanessa gets a promotional opportunity to work in New York. Kwabena thinks she should not miss this prospect and thinks their long-distance relationship can work. Vanessa is not as sure about it.

Episode 5: The Pitch

Dreaming Whilst Black (Season 1) Recap & Ending Explained
Adjani Salmon in Dreaming Whilst Black

The episode begins with a video for Political Impartiality in Schools guidance that ignores the guilt of colonizers and tries to sugar-coat it with the nice things Brits did for the world. Then, the episode returns to show Kwabena joining other aspirant filmmakers at the meeting with the panel. Nathan (Tom Byrne), a white filmmaker, shares an idea that is light in terms of conflict. So, Nathan just invents an issue to make his protagonists struggle, without realising his wilful ignorance. On the other hand, Kwabena struggles to perfect his pitch. He moves from Maurice’s place to his mother’s. Later, he bumps into Dorvin and lies to have listened to his tape.

Maurice and Funmi argue whether their son should be raised Jamaican or Nigerian. They debate whether or not Mayowa should be circumcised. In the midst of that, they learn that Dorvin has been put behind bars. Despite that stress, Kwabena cannot lose out on fulfilling his dream. He pitches his period romance idea, but the white panel members fail to see its significance. Helen mentions how Kwabena’s idea is too similar to Timothy’s upcoming project. Kwabena can’t speak the truth about it. So, he tries to upsell his idea but fails.

Filmmaker’s Choice

After the panel meeting, William learns about Kwabena’s troubled cousin. So, he asks Kwabena to work on that story instead. Kwabena does not want to be another director to make hood films. But William offers another perspective to him. He mentions how this hood film can make Kwabena part of the industry and, as a result, help him fund his desired ideas thereafter. Kwabena struggles to make his mind up. Meanwhile, upon his aunt’s request, Kwabena speaks with Dorvin on a video call. He hears Dorvin share his story and writes it down. At his next pitch meeting, Kwabena chucks his period romance idea to share a story inspired by Dorvin’s. It helps him get the funding.

Meanwhile, Amy is put in a spot in her production company to speak about her issues because she is the only black person working there. After Howard whines about his non-problems, Amy decides to shed her professional politeness. She speaks about her issues working in this company. But Suzy takes the limelight by crying about Amy’s struggles. Everyone goes to wipe Suzy’s tears even though Amy is the one going through troubling experiences.

After this ‘opening up’ session, Howard offers Amy an AP position in exchange for making their company look better by improving ‘their’ apology statement. So, finally, she decides to resign. After that, she plans to move back to Nigeria. However., Kwabena convinces her to stay back and help him get his film made. So, while Amy decides to stay back, Vanessa leaves the country for her New York job.

Episode 6: The Premiere

Kwabena finishes the film’s production with Amy but does not seem as happy as her. It is because he badly misses Vanessa. So, Amy suggests he should call her. He sees Vanessa with another man and ends up feeling even worse. Meanwhile, the voices in Kwabena’s mind start getting louder. One of them wants him to present an approachable image for the white execs. Another one expects him to stay true to his roots. Kwabena struggles to pick one of them. He stays anxious about whether any future opportunities will open up after his film’s premiere.

Dreaming Whilst Black (Season 1) Ending Explained:

At his film’s screening, Kwabena notices Lewis working at the counter. Kwabena tells him the names of two agents and asks him to bring them to their reserved seats. Helen sees Kwabena and makes a casual assumption-based remark about Kwabena without realizing how racist it is. Unlike Maurice and Grace, who are supportive of his work, Uncle Claude (Roger Griffiths) isn’t, due to his ideological differences. Anyhow, they enter the premiere venue to watch the film. It ends with Kwabena receiving cheers and applause from the audience. Due to this warm reception, Amy also decides to stick around in England to work on their unfinished business.

What happens after Kwabena’s film’s premiere?

After the screening, Adam meets Kwabena and congratulates him on this film. We learn that Kwabena forgot to share Dorvin’s CV for a construction job, as he had promised his aunt. On the other hand, Kwabena learns that Amy was the black girl Adam went out on a date with. It creates an awkward moment between the three of them. Amidst these greeters, Kwabena cannot see the agents he was hoping to meet. Turns out, Lewis misdirected them to another screening hall. So, Kwabena feels terrible that he may have missed his chance of getting an agent.

But eventually, he sees one of the agents – Drew, and goes up to talk with her. To his surprise, she saw the film and loved it.  She offers him representation as her client. While Kwabena gets elated by this wonderful opportunity, he gets let down by a reality check from his uncle. Claude does not appreciate Kwabena exploiting his cousin’s trauma to receive praise from white folks and to advance his career. He points out how it would not help Dorvin but will only help Kwabena. Although William brings Kwabena into the limelight, the guilt of appropriation stays in the back of his mind. So, in the end, Kwabena reckons whether he sold out his morals on his path to becoming a successful filmmaker.

Read More: 15 Best TV Shows Based on Movies You Must Check Out

Trailer:

Dreaming Whilst Black (Season 1) Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
Dreaming Whilst Black (Season 1) Cast: Adjani Salmon, Dani Moseley, Jo Martin, Demmy Ladipo, Rachel Adedeji, Babirye Bukilwa, Martina Laird, Roger Griffiths
Dreaming Whilst Black (Season 1) Genre: Comedy
Where to watch Dreaming Whilst Black (Season 1)

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