1 Day

Last week I went to a screening of a film called 1 Day made by Blast! Film production for Film4/Channel4. According to the director Penny Woolcock the film has been banned in five West Midlands cities, (presumably Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Wallsall and somewhere else... Sorry my geography isn't very good). The method by which the police are banning this film is apparently quite extraordinary.

They are touring local cinemas telling them to take it off. They say it is a public safety issue. If there is gangland violence as a result of the film the cinema will in some strange way be responsible. It would be quite a brave cinema manager to go ahead with a screening after such a warning, but the police do not seem to have any legal power to do this.

The film is a cheapo picture shot in a month on a £700k budget using a 750 camera. Despite the tiny budget it is often truly beautiful and surprisingly well made. It is a cross between West Side Story and Pulp Fiction. Supposedly, the first Hip Hop musical made in this country, but with a surprisingly high body count.

The ending of nearly all the main characters in the film is so relentlessly awful that when it was shown in local community screenings the police were saying that it should be shown to schools as a shocking reminder of how ghastly a life of drug dealing and crime is.

However, some anonymous tipster has apparently told the police (or possibly one of the local councils) that three local gangs (the Johnsons, Burgers and Raiders) planned a rumble over the film. They called it a shoot out.

The lead character in the film one Dylan Duffus who looks about as threatening as Lenny Henry, claimed to have come from this community and to have had friends who had met a grisly end as a result of gangland violence.

Duffus said something I found quite interesting. He had been told by someone from the local community that "you have got to watch the monster within". Quite what the monster is, I don't know but it sounds like a line from Heart of Darkness.

This picture of Birmingham makes the place look about as threatening as Milton Keynes on a sunny summer day, which despite the fact that I don't know the place very well, is certainly not my experience. One woman in the audience at the screening complained very vociferously that this film was just black people killing each other and had absolutely no positive role models.

While this is true I'm not altogether convinced that one film has to provide role models as well as telling, what is an interesting, if blood thirsty, story, told in a fairly compelling way. As you may imagine, given the budget constraints and the fact that Penny Woolcock is a middle class white woman, there are all the usual West Indian stereotypes...

This addition is from Shooting People (November 19, 2009):

"There was a recent screening planned at the International Black Festival in Birmingham. Again no cinema would let them show it because the West Midlands police had warned them against it. Penny finally screened it in a place called the Custard Factory on a dvd. Police arrived 15 minutes into the screening and stopped it, turned on all the lights and came in to “count” the audience (all quietly watching the film). They also took the film crew's details.

"When the police superintendent was challenged by Penny on Radio 5 Live the next morning, the superintendant claimed that her officers had attended "because we heard there were problems with the projector" (a startling claim in its own right, no less when there was actually no projector...).

"No-one can really figure out what has happened. It is deeply alarming that the police have suddenly switched sides and decided to actively censor the film by persuading cinema owners that public health and safety is at risk."