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David Oyelowo’s directorial debut, ‘The Water Man,’ is a love letter to the ’80s… and love itself

David Oyelowo’s pedigree of being a classically trained stage actor has largely translated into his career in film with weighty roles in SelmaThe ButlerNightingale, and so forth. So when the opportunity to make his directorial debut with the kid-centric fantasy The Water Man came about, his fear was double-fold: stepping behind the camera and going left of what people have come to expect from him as an actor.

“I tend to gravitate towards roles and projects that are terrifying to me,” Oyelowo says in an upcoming episode of Fast Company’s podcast Creative Conversation. “This is a story that I knew, and it’s been confirmed, that people will be like, ‘But you do those important movies? You do those historical movies. Why have you gone off and done this family-adventure movie?’”

Directed by and starring Oyelowo, The Water Man follows Gunner (Lonnie Chavis), an 11-year-old boy who embarks on a journey to find the Water Man, a mythical figure said to possess the ability to heal. Even though the Water Man is believed to be nothing more than an urban legend, Gunner is desperate enough to seek him out with the aid of his friend Jo (Amiah Miller) to cure his mom (Rosario Dawson), who’s dying of cancer. But when Gunner and Jo get in over their heads, Amos (Oyelowo), Gunner’s dad—with whom he has a strained relationship—embarks on his own mission to save them.

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