My Friend Lanre review – loving portrait of a sensitive, self-destructive photographer

My Friend Lanre review – loving portrait of a sensitive, self-destructive photographer


In the 1990s, Lanre Fehintola was a skilled journalist who became addicted to heroin and crack while documenting addicts in Bradford. Despite dealing drugs and serving time in prison, he never abandoned his passion for photography. In this unfiltered and heartfelt documentary directed by his friend Leo Regan, Fehintola reflects on his life through over 25 years of footage. This is Regan’s third film about Fehintola, and it’s evident why he continues to be drawn to him. In his youth, Fehintola exuded vitality and charisma, but also had a self-destructive and sensitive nature that was captivating.

The movie opens with Fehintola in the present, coming to terms with his recent diagnosis of lung cancer. The doctors have given him six months to live. He smiles at the camera and says, “It is what it is, Leo,” his charisma still shining through. In the 90s, the two of them were young and idealistic photojournalists in London. They lived by Robert Capa’s words: “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Fehintola returned to his hometown of Bradford to document the lives of addicts. He was either naive or reckless, with no concern for his own safety, as he started using hard drugs for his research. He insists, “I never planned on becoming an addict.”

The reality is more complex. Fehintola was brought up by strict parents and faced challenges as a troubled child. He eventually ended up in a children’s home where he struggled against racism and authority. His life story is told without any filter. Despite going through withdrawal in his apartment, Fehintola is still great company. In 1999, he asks his friend Errol to watch over him and prevent him from giving into temptation. After a few days, he becomes restless and begs to leave and find drugs. At one point, he even threatens to call the police, but both he and Errol find it amusing. Overall, the film has a warmer and kinder tone than its initial description may suggest.