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Brixton music icon ‘Blacker Dread’ features in new docu film

PICTURED: Steve 'Blacker Dread' Martin

A NEW documentary film which charts a portion of the life of Steve ‘Blacker Dread’ Martin will be coming to selected cinemas from March 1 and will be followed by a broadcast on BBC2 on March 12.

Martin is a music producer and record shop owner in Brixton, south London but he’s also an immensely popular, larger-than-life figurehead of South London’s storied Jamaican community.

The 90-minute documentary titled Being Blacker is legendary filmmaker Molly Dineen’s first documentary for ten years and started when Blacker – whom she first met 37 years ago when he featured in a film she made as a student – asked her to film his beloved mother’s funeral.

What follows is a portrait, in equal measures uplifting, funny, exasperating and tragic, of the challenges, conflicts and quirks of being black in modern Britain.

At the centre of this is Blacker himself; the man whose extraordinary life has seen him experience three generations of educational inequality, racism, cultural isolation, lack of employment opportunities, crime and violence, but also an extraordinary sense of togetherness, community spirit, and a vibrant musical culture which has done so much to shape today’s UK music scene.

Speaking about the documentary, Molly Dineen said: “When I reconnected with Blacker I stepped into another world. He’s a wonderful character who has lived the most incredible life and Being Blacker looks at the social and cultural issues which have forged his path.

“Blacker Dread as seen in this film could only exist in this extraordinary world where family and music are at the forefront, but racism and violence are also everyday occurrences. And if you think any of these are things of the past in London then Being Blacker will prove eye-opening to say the very least.”

Over a period of three years, the film follows Blacker and his wide circle of family and friends through his incarceration for fraud, his daughter’s wedding, his youngest son’s education in Jamaica, and the spectre of violence and criminality cast over his life by his son’s murder a decade earlier - all recalled in Blacker’s relentlessly charismatic voice, and all of which highlight issues that loom large over Britain’s black communities today.

Molly Dineen is renowned as one of the country’s finest factual film makers, but was still a student when she shot Sound Business in 1981; a film which took her into British incarnations of Jamaica’s infamous Sound Systems, where she first encountered a young Blacker Dread, desperate to make it on the Jamaican music scene.

Being Blacker is shot in Molly’s inimitable first-person style, which was developed through such films as Home from the Hill – about retired colonial British Lieutenant-Colonel Hilary Hook; BAFTA-winner The Ark, about London Zoo; profiles of Tony Blair and Geri Halliwell; and The Lie of the Land – also a BAFTA winner – about British rural life on the eve of the fox hunting ban.

Cinema screenings for the Being Blacker film will include Curzon Soho – March 1; Ultimate Picture House, Oxford – March 3; Cube, Bristol – March 3; Rio Dalston – March 4; Peckhamplex, London – March 4; BFI Southbank – March 5; Everyman Mailbox, Birmingham – March 6; Home, Manchester – March 7; Ritzy, Brixton – March 8.

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