This is a revolution, ok, maybe not quite a revolution but a revolt nonetheless, and when one revolts the question is posed; “is you is or is you ain’t?”
Is you against this never ending cyclical barrage of stereotypical portrayals, these constant salvo of clichéd distasteful drama that do nothing for the enhancement of the community in which they claim to represent. Is you no longer prepared to sit and continue to watch as your friends, your family and more importantly your PEOPLE are tirelessly trivialised, done so many wrongs for the sake of entertaining the mass droid inhabitants of what we call the planet earth.
Now, the reason for this rather impromptu outburst comes from reading an article from a good friend of mine, one that I feel will gradually become a welcomed professional nemesis of mine as I’m sure this will not be the last time our paths cross in debate. Maybe one day he might become my Monty Kipps and I, Howard Belsey such as in Zadie Smith’s ‘On Beauty’, however this is a prospect I anticipate and readily prepare for.
His article ‘Defend the Block’ comments on a film that has recently hit the big screens of British cinema, I will refrain from giving this film more publicity than I have already done in this past few days and simply say I’m pretty sure you have come across it through its massive marketing campaign. Also, for the record I have not seen this film in focus nor do I plan to, I am a firm believer of ‘knowing your enemy’ but in this case I feel the enemy is moving one step ahead of me and is no longer playing fairly. The enemy is actually digging in deeper and finding new and I must concede more creative ways to infiltrate, corrupt and plant seeds of doom and failure in the young minds that will sadly use their limited EMA allowances, their mother’s underpaid work salaries to watch a false projection of their environment. What could be more detrimental is the fact that thousands and thousands of suburban white kids will also watch this, laugh at this, and go away believing these characters they see on the screen represents the Black guy they will see on the way home that evening, sitting across them on the last train back to Luton because although they were just rooting for him to help defend them from a greater evil on screen, but this is real life, and after all he can’t fight his instincts to flick that knife he has to procure the valuables in their bag.
My attack (excuse the pun) is not solely against the film, rather its ideology and the ideology many other films and television programmes like it carries, it strengthens negative stereotypes in a fashion that delves deep into the subconscious – film has this potential, in fact that is why I use it as one of the mediums to express myself because unlike any other form it has a way of communicating an idea or reinforcing beliefs. We, as a society have a way of responding to these ideas expressed in films because there is a sense of familiarity as we see real manifestation of us on television re-enacting real life situations with real life objects, psychologically this has a profound effect on us, this commands a greater and truer reaction from us than any other form of communication, we are instantly awoken and aware and at the very least accept the film’s truths regardless of how farfetched it may seem.
There is a danger with this, if Film has this potential and then continues to only highlight issues such as gang culture, fallen and misguided youths in the ‘Block’ then we are ultimately at loss, we will perpetuate what is in fact a miniscule of what life in the ‘Block’ is really about... what we’re constantly fed was not my truth when growing up nor is it the truth for many dwellers in London’s urban areas today, so why must we persist on enduring these barrages, and with our endurance somewhat faltering we start to accept these depictions and become increasingly desensitised to wrong and distasteful commentary.
"It's black!" "Blacker than black!" "So black you can't see!" "This thing is even blacker than my cousin Femi!" This is not comedy it’s racist! Regardless of taunting we all endured during adolescent school days, the sad fact is we were merely victims of decades multiplied by decades’ worth of institutions force feeding us these wrong ideas, to revel in and use this sad fact is really an act of racism.
Why are we so willing to accept the criminal activities of these youngsters on the big screens and not only this go on to then celebrate it as long as it means they protect us from greater impending danger?... Go on big strong black boys, fend off these aliens... go on big strong black men, go and fight this war on terror for us, and then when you get back, we will put you in Prison because you’re socially inept to readapt to social life or the years you’ve spent away hasn’t changed the fact that you still don’t have any viable working merit so we’ll just sit tight and wait for you to commit a desperate act to feed yourself and your family and that’s when we’ll come for you and take you away to prison. Am I the only one that sees this parallel?
I refuse to be deceived and consent to these tactics and ploys laid out by high authoritative forces, forces with hands weighing down on every urban youth by saturating their options with stupefied repetitive dialogue and structure and never allowing them to see something new and refreshing...something true.
I will conclude by addressing the issue of funding and the fact that many films such as these constantly get the required backing they need, this issue can never be irrelevant when interrogating a film because fundamentally the procurement of financial support is the catalyst for any major film to hit the mainstream. Unless you’re Spike Lee, who has proven countless of time that his film’s about the ‘Block’ such as Crooklyn and Do The Right Thing can be true and honest and sincere... and funny, without playing to the coonery boofoonery that is expected from films of this nature, it is virtually impossible to access any financial aid without playing to this requirement. If after all these years British directors such as Menelik Shabazz who is a prominent member of
black film makers in the UK constantly gets overlooked or Patrice Etienne a young director who like many other young directors and film makers I know constantly get rejected by art institute because they refuse to engage in the coonery and boonfooney that these funding bodies obviously want to endorse then what hope do you as a community have if all you see is a constant dishonest reflection of you, what hope do you have as viewers if you’re made to believe this is as good as it gets when it comes to urban British cinema...because believe me it’s not.
I will prove it one day!