Seattle musician and comedian Ahamefule J. Oluo’s autobiographical one-man musical show “Now I’m Fine” has had many lives: First performed at Town Hall in 2012, it went on to On the Boards, the Moore and Off-Broadway in New York at the Public Theater. Now, after years of development, it’s a feature film called “Thin Skin,” screening virtually next week at the Bentonville Film Festival in its world premiere.
“Thin Skin” was inspired by both “Now I’m Fine” and by Oluo’s “This American Life” story, “The Wedding Crasher.” In it, Oluo plays a version of himself: a jazz musician struggling with a soul-deadening job, a broken marriage, and a ghost in his life: his Nigerian father, who left the family long ago and now has suddenly renewed contact. On top of it all, he also battles an autoimmune condition that causes his skin to dissolve.
“Thin Skin” has a remarkable Seattle pedigree: Written by Oluo, Charles Mudede and Lindy West, it’s directed by Mudede (“Police Beat,” “Zoo”) and produced by Michael Seiwerath, Jennessa West and Jonathan Caso. Appearing in the film are Ijeoma Oluo (the bestselling author of “So You Want to Talk About Race” is Ahamefule’s sister; she plays herself) and vocalist/musician Okanomodé Soulchilde, among others. The film was shot entirely in Seattle, on locations that included the Owl N’ Thistle pub and Meany Hall.
Oluo, in a telephone interview, said that “Thin Skin” was originally scheduled to premiere at Bentonville in May in a traditional screening, but COVID-19 scuttled those plans, moving the film festival out several months and online. “It’s been kind of chaotic with figuring out how to release a movie in the pandemic,” he said.
The Bentonville presentation will be a 24-hour viewing window; Oluo and the “Thin Skin” crew are planning another virtual screening for next month — “a one-time screening where everyone tunes in at the same time. That’s going to be really fun, to get that atmosphere of a live premiere that’s so hard to get now.”
The film will be available for 24 hours beginning at 12 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 11. Tickets are $12 and available via bentonvillefilm.org. The Bentonville Film Festival was founded six years ago by Oscar-winning actor Geena Davis and Inclusion Companies CEO Trevor Drinkwater, with a goal of facilitating “actionable change toward balanced, diverse and inclusive media.”