Director Cary Joji Fukunaga‘s Beasts of No Nation takes a look at Agu’s life as a child solider fighting in a civil war of an African country that is never named. The film, which was shot in Africa, tells a powerful visual story and costume designer Jenny Eagan‘s work contributes no small part. Eagan was really excited to join the project when she received the invitation from the director to be a part of the team. She was deeply drawn to the script, which dealt with a subject matter that she had never worked with in any way, and she saw it as a chance of a lifetime. “It is always interesting to me when it is something that challenges you in a way you’ve never been challenged before, looking at something a little bit different,” Eagan said.
The collaboration with Fukunaga was also an exciting part of the adventure of working on this film. Eagan found him to be full of ideas and creativity and she found herself very inspired by working with him. “I found it to be the most collaborative because we had to be there to support one another, every single crew member, whether they were local or they came from the States or South Africa; we all became a big family and had to work together to make it right,” Eagan said.
Creating the looks was an interesting process. The script doesn’t specify a time period or a precise location or many details about the conflict of the civil war. Eagan drew inspiration from African tribes but then she depended on the story itself for cues on dressing the characters. “If those boys went into the jungle with a shirt and with a bottom half and they didn’t have resources. There wasn’t a store or a market to collect anything in, so when they did get something that was new, it might be because they had captured an army soldier along the way and they stole their goods from them and that would be their new boots or new pants,” Eagan explained. In this way, as the story progressed, the characters changed what they were wearing.
“I loved it all because it was very creative. Each soldier in time brought his own style and creativity to it and everybody became their own,” Eagan said. The clothes weren’t washed because of a lack of resources so they really grew and aged on their bodies and this brought more character and individuality to the outfits.
Her favorite moment in her work happened during a scene when the main character, Agu, is doing drugs. “The whole thing turns pink and you look to his right and you see these African tribal animals we created. You only get to see them very quickly but we spent a lot of time on it with real animal skins and real snakeskin and we had a cheetah and some beautiful African wooden masks… That was particularly inspiring for me and so fun and creative.”