Disclaimer a go-go:
You may think that this is shameless self publicity but in fairness it is a knee jerk reaction to what I feel is the first Asian lead BBC TV show since Goodness Gracious Me. I know you will say “what about Mumbai Calling and Meet the Magoons” but I will get to them later and anyway they were ITV and CH4 respectively.
Let me start by saying I don’t hate Mr Khan, starring the talented Adil Ray, but I did find it unfunny. The reason being is it was structured like a BBC sitcom with Pakistanis in the place of White suburban families. The dynamics, interaction and comedy timing are the same as Terry and June, just colour adjusted. I gave up watching these bland dreary sitcoms 20 odd years ago (yes, the last thing I watched was Fresh Fields!). Clearly the BBC hasn’t learned from their diversity remit, remember the Crouches? The all Black sitcom and written by the guy who created Rab C Nesbitt?
<–more–> Continue reading Mr Khan: Perpetuating a Myth for the British Public
Ladies and Gentlemen, racism is making a comeback and now coming from the mouths of people I wouldn’t normally associate with bigoted comments. Yes, immigration has been out of control and The Daily Mail has been doing it’s bit to stoke the flames but now with the steady and increased popularity of Nick Griffin’s party winning over voters with their anti immigration rallying cry we are entering a dark phase of British culture similar to that of the 70’s and communities are becoming more divided. We all suffer from this division.
This country is forgetting the fundamental benefits of multiculturalism as noticed by the 2012 Olympics, which brought this great country together in times of financial hardship but some organisations are hell bent on destroying this vital infrastructure.
I now often hear people saying “they should go back home” in front of me as if I am instantly going to agree with them, on the bus and in public places.
It’s not just verbal attacks but having walked past a pub in Acton, West London with a scrawled Nazi slogan on the side, listened to a disgruntled British customer having a go at the staff’s work ethic and as he walks out openly says that “they” are giving the jobs who need it the least and you have the notorious Emma West’s outburst which will become more common.
I am currently writing a feature script, Microphone Fiends, about the mix of Londoners from different backgrounds and how they use stand up comedy to vent and inform on their frustration and create a snapshot of the dark situation London is at the moment much in the same way that Alan Clarke’s Scum and Franco Rosso’s Babylon showed how the times were.
Babylon and the Road to Diversity
Babylon is a 1980 film that deals with racism and integration from the viewpoint of the black community trying to live in London. A true snapshot of what Britain was like as a cultural melting pot ready to burst into violence, which preempted the Brixton riots.
The financing for the film was incredibly tough to put into place with compromises being met on every aspect of production but it eventually managed to get finished but had a very limited release and quickly disappeared due to the fact that the cinemas were resistant in showing it due to concerns of commercial viability. As the main cinema chains controlled the vast majority of the theaters there were very few alternative avenues for this film to find its audience but it eventually did get a minuscule release and subsequently sank without a trace. Remember, this was before Channel 4 was launched which showcased diverse talents such as Hanif Kureshi and other like minded angry people getting a chance to make their mark. Babylon was simply ahead of its time.
Fast forward to the advent of the home video boom, it gained a new lease of life on VHS tapes in mainly black communities during the 80’s. Often in very poor quality it stayed an underground must see for those that felt mainstream programming was not representing their community enough.
This in itself dispels the myth that there was no audience and considering Ken Loach regularly had his films financed and released and these dealt with social issues in the same vein as Babylon. It seems that nobody wanted to light the touch paper in 1980 and nobody was brave enough to push the film to find its audience in its initial release. Today it is different when it comes to releasing “edgy” films to the marketplace.
Thankfully, in recent years Babylon has been rediscovered and celebrated with a fresh transfer for DVD as a time capsule of an uncomfortable era.
Why am I talking about a film made over thirty years ago and what relevance has it to what’s happening now? Basically nothing has changed, go to the cinema or switch on the TV and the same people and taste makers still give very few avenues for diversity and the next generation of filmmakers who want to make the same social awareness films are still finding it hard to get the relevant platforms. The odd breakout like Kidulthood comes in but there is nothing to compliment it in the marketplace. There have been small pockets such as Hanif’s films (courtesy of Channel 4 and BBC), Flight, about an Indian woman who runs away from her arranged marriage, which is criminally ignored to name but a few.
Same as the Brixton and Southall riots in the 80’s the 2011 summer riots was waiting to happen and nobody outside the black community knew it was coming until it was too late. Kidulthood and its sequel came close but bordered on caricature and urban melodrama rather than a genuine angry insight into contemporary London. The only difference about now is that with the Internet age we can address the balance to a certain degree in getting your ideas out there without being bound or stifled by the big broadcasters but to make something presentable you still need money and it’s back to the same old cap-in-hand approach and who holds the purse strings?
As long as there is an imbalance in contemporary London and as long as the people’s voices aren’t heard we need to push by any means necessary to get our voices heard