Tag: kidulthood

American Cinema and the Revival of Black Cinema……

……And what the UK can learn

I read a recent New York Times article where in 2013 no less that 13 films made by and starring black talent are coming to a cinema near you. It doesn’t sound like a lot but is a significant improvement and no longer a marginalized festival friendly niche playing in small markets with the only mainstream fare being serviced by Eddie Murphy, Spike Lee and Denzel Washington among the steady few. Hopefully you will longer get a middle-aged white women directing such trash as Driving Miss Racism or a return to 70 exploitative Blaxploitation films.

Why are the studios suddenly making a judgment call that there is a wider (read: profitable) market for these films? It has to be the recent successes of the lowbrow but money making Tyler Perry franchise among others that has made them look closer.

The point I am making is that producers in the UK readily assume there is no long-term market to cater to Black and Asian audiences and such cinematic hits as Bend it Like Beckham and Kidulthood are seen as exceptions to a rule. Their way of thinking is that making similar themed films will not amount to any large box office returns in their eyes to warrant the investment in talent. The ones that are released and do dismal box office are generally down to the fact that they are poorly made and deserve to be on the Morrissons 99p aisle and dare I even mention any of them. Do people read scripts anymore? I have personally read scripts written by two Asian talents that are good as anything that has come out.

Now, I have a script that I am writing that has an Asian and British Lead. Even though the story is predominantly about the Asian lad I have to have an equally large contribution of his friend so it is considered a saleable commodity. Bend It and East is East is East applied the same rule. This does make sense so the British audience has somebody to connect with. We will neglect to mention Goodness Gracious Me, which had very few white characters and was a cultural phenomenon without conforming to these rules.

There is always a market for a good story. The Americans are seeing that but when will the UK look at it in the same way?

Alan Clarke Remembered

Alan Clarke. He’s the guy that directed Scum. The brutal cinematic indictment of the borstal system, his most famous film and initially made as a television drama and subsequently banned then remade as a feature film. The television production was only shown for the first time in 1991 on Channel 4.

Lesser known than Ken Loach who, to me, share the same blistering anger at showing society’s darkest moments around them, Clarke seems to be mostly forgotten in history and his work is hardly screened outside of the odd retrospective but filmmakers can learn from his work and his filmic output needs to be brought back for public analysis. Find a copy of Diane, a teenager who lives in a dilapidated block with her father which I discovered in some obscure digital portal and rarely shown since 1975, Christine about heroin addict filmed in an uncompromising manner that far from glamorizes drug addiction or Elephant, about the IRA killings which indirectly influenced Gus Van Sant’s film of the same name. Even Larry Clarke’s Kids has a similar voyeuristic tone.

If you think his films are of another era and not relevant nowadays then think again, they are a stark look at the society around him in showing real people in its most raw. His films have made a difference in the case of Scum and pushed people to see what they want to brush under the carpet (The elephant in the room). The modern equivalent is Hanif Kureishi’s My Son the Fanatic and Kidulthood to name two films.

Remember, Scum changed the laws on borstal institutions after it was released and if you want to make films or even documentaries that challenge what the government or society is doing then take note, watch and learn. This is the prime medium to make a change and sometimes people forget that.

Don’t be fooled, his films make for uncompromising and often difficult viewing but you want to make an impact he is the granddaddy of them all.