Beasts of No Nation is going to make Abraham Attah a star. The movie, Netflix's first original feature film, won't be released on Netflix Instant Watch and in limited theaters until Friday, Oct. 16, but the film already has plenty of people talking. After premieres at the Venice Film Festival, the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, the film from writer-director Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) is already being heralded as one of the best of the year. Idris Elba has received rave reviews for his performance as Commandant, the war lord who forces young boys to become child soldiers, and Fukunaga has been praised for his adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala's novel. But by far the biggest headlines belong to Abraham Attah, the 14-year-old actor behind Agu in Beasts of No Nation. With his moving performance and huge smile, the teen has quickly become somewhat of a festival darling, and if you don't know who Abraham Attah is yet, trust me: you will soon.
In Beasts of No Nation , Attah plays Agu, a young soldier recruited by the Commandant and forced to transform from child to killer in an African civil war. Beasts of No Nation marks Attah's first ever acting role, and might just be his ticket to a successful career as an actor.
From Ghana, Attah auditioned for Beasts of No Nation on a whim after being spotted by a casting director while playing soccer with some friends. Though some reports suggest Attah was working as a street vendor in his hometown of Accra — Ghana's capital — at the time he was cast, the truth is that he was just a student skipping school when he was recruited to audition.
"We were playing football on our school field, and a white man was watching when I was playing. I thought he needed someone for the football team. He told us we should go for an audition. I was working hard for the role, so I got the role," Attah told The New York Times.
At a press conference in Venice, Fukunaga recalled Attah's audition, in which he was asked to improvise a scene where his sister was taken. "He had access to his emotions in a way that we're looking for when we're trying to cast a movie where we need people... especially kids, who can live in the make believe, who can access that part of their imagination very easily in front of the camera," Fukunaga said.
Fukunaga isn't the only one impressed by Attah's innate talent. The young actor was awarded the Marcello Mastroianni Best Young Actor Award at the 2015 Venice Film Festival, and buzz surrounding Attah is undoubtedly only going to increase once the film is finally released. There's already talk of Oscar, with the teen potentially making the list of youngest nominees ever for an acting prize come 2016.
Beasts of No Nation may be Attah's first film, but it certainly won't be his last. The budding star will be in the short film Out of the Village, the directorial debut of Jonathan Stein, who worked as an assistant to Bryan Singer on X-Men: First Class. Out of the Village, about a brother and sister left in the aftermath of the Ebola virus, was shot in Ghana and is reportedly completed, meaning it could hit the festival circuit soon.
After Out of the Village and Beasts of No Nation, it's unclear what's next for Abraham Attah. Hopefully these two films will just be the start of a long career for the talented teen.