Have a Fucking Heart

Recently, I saw a film called #Legacy. As is the standard procedure, a few days before the editor of the blog I write for offered the opportunity to interview the cast of the film. I read the synopsis and quickly realised that this film was almost certainly going to fall under the bracket of ‘urban’ film. I call it ‘urban’ in brackets because I don’t think anyone can agree upon an acceptable term to describe the fact that it is a film with non-white people in it. It is also a British, low budget indie that is likely not to get a cinema release.

These films have a special place in my heart. I enjoy watching them. The stories often told in these films are not familiar to me, they do not mirror my own life in any way. But, as I have said time and time again, that is what makes cinema great. How boring and awful would life be if everywhere you looked, all you saw was examples of your own life looking back at you. I live in London. There are lots of people just like me. They are also lots of people who are not like me. So when I watch films, what I sometimes want is examples of those people who are not like me. And if you approach every film with the desire that the characters in the film are going to be like you, and think the same way you do, and do the same things, well then good luck to you and your boring existence.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that because my experiences as a white person in the UK are constantly, constantly in the cinema in one form or another. But imagine that you NEVER EVER saw anything that represented you at all? No character that you could look to and say ‘yes, that’s how I feel.’ That would be pretty frustrating. You are, after all, a person who lives here, and has your own experiences, so why are you not listened to? Why are you not important? Well, that is basically the British film industry if you are not white.

The greatest thing about Kidulthood, when it was released way back in 2006 is that it was totally unapologetic. It wasn’t trying to say ‘hey, look how shit everything is, please feel sorry for us’, it was saying ‘this is stuff that happens and that’s just how it is.’ It wasn’t pandering, it wasn’t begging. Noel Clarke wrote that film with his heart, that much is obvious. And whether you liked the film or not, it did exceptionally well, because finally, it was something different. Then followed Adulthood, and a slew of films that fell into the ‘urban’ category. But as time passes, as is totally natural with anything, the format changed. Adam Deacon’s Anuvahood directly referenced the previous films, and seemed to be saying ‘OK, we got it, but can we actually talk about why these things happen?’ Because whilst Kidulthood broke the mold of the genre, the films that followed wanted to refine it. And the reason that this has to happen is because it is not healthy, fair or responsible to constantly perpetuate the image that these young, hooded youths are robots whose only purpose is to have sex, take drugs, and merk people. That is a dangerous untruth, because all it does is support the widely held view that these kids are bad. Films such as Attack the Block went a long way to dispel the myth, keeping the language, trends and attitudes of young people present, whilst allowing the audience to identify with them.

I reference Attack the Block and Anuvahood because #Legacy, the aforementioned film, claims, like them, to be a comedy. It is supposed to be funny. I watched it after a morning spent at a film festival, a very good one, the type that reaffirms your faith in cinema (shout out to Open City Docs.) It’s important to point out here that whilst the film can definitely be classed as ‘urban’, it is different to the other previously mentioned films in that the kids in it are not from an estate. The film has seemingly thrown the net a little wider, incorporating a slighter larger group- young, mainly non-white kids.

So I was rather surprised to find myself, less than 20 minutes in, sitting at my desk with a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes. I actually wanted to cry. I could not believe what I was seeing. I will spare you the finer details (you can read my review here) but the film was not only deeply offensive to anyone that is a human, but it was horrendously exploitative. I imagined how I would feel as a young Londoner of any race, looking at the screen, wondering if this is what the general population thought of us. I imagined how I would feel as a teenage boy, excited at the idea of  a film that is about stuff that I would find fun. And then how I would feel to realise that, according to this film, all I am good for is looking on the internet before a party to find out ’10 ways to fuck that stuck up bitch’ (No, I’m not kidding, it’s an actual scene.) And wanking. And being nasty and disrespectful to girls. Then I wondered how I would feel as a teenage girl, 6 minutes in, watching two girls without ID (you get the connotations) stripping down to their thongs and sucking a guy’s dick so I can get into a party. And then realising that every  female character except one gets naked or is mindlessly fucking someone. I imagined how I would feel being Amy Tyger, the lead actress, whose character Dani is the only girl in the film with a brain, being hounded by her mates for ‘looking like a boy’, only to get the guy she fancies in the end by putting on a nice dress and doing her make up (the boy who she fancied was also the only decent lad in the whole film.)

And then finally, I imagined how I would feel as the director, Davie Fairbanks. The guy who was so insulted by the critical reviews of his last film that he called everyone a cunt. I imagined the journey, that as an indie filmmaker, he would have been through in order to get the film made. And that’s where my compassion came to a grinding halt. Because here is a person, so desperate to make his mark in the industry that he will happily shoehorn in however many pairs of tits he possibly can to get it done, without the incentive to honestly represent his characters, and simultaneously affirming the thoughts of an already snobbish industry that won’t give these films a shot. Shame on him.

I seriously hope that Fairbanks makes a film again. To wish that he didn’t is to wish that another indie filmmaker will fail, and that’s not good for anyone. But I hope that he reaches, deep within himself and finds his fucking soul, and perhaps on the journey, Noel Clarke, who produced the film, can find the same heart that he used when making Kidulthood too. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.

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