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Gone Too Far: Finally a film that tells our story

RISING STARS: Shanika Warren-Markland, Malachi Kirby and OC Ukeje in Destiny Ekaragha’s film Gone Too Far

ARE YOU a criminal? Is your mother addicted to crack cocaine? Have you ever sold crack cocaine (maybe to your pregnant mother while she was working as a prostitute)?

Are you unaware of who your feckless alcoholic father is? Have you ever stabbed or shot someone? Perhaps you’re a school drop-out? Or maybe your first language is ‘road talk’?

If the answer to any of these questions is 'yes', then congratulations - you are the face of black Britain! You are the springboard for many an outlandish crime ‘n’ grime movie project or TV show.

In reality, pretty much all of us Black Britons (bar a tiny minority) are well-educated (both formally and/or self-taught), well adjusted, law-abiding strivers (we, Mr Osborne, are the true strivers of Britain - we strive twice as hard to get half as much).

So perhaps it is just me, but I really do not recognise or know any of the types of people in Top Boy, One Day (laughably poor film by the way), Kidulthood, Adulthood, Ill Manors, and their like.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude. I enjoy a good gangster film as much as the next man. But I recognise and appreciate that these are not truly the stories of us. These are not the stories that capture and reflect the reality of Black Britain in this day and age. If you want to see the stories of 'us', then I highly recommend the works of Bola Agbaje.

PLEASURE

In 2008, I had the pleasure of going to see a play called Gone Too Far. It is an absolutely hysterical comedy on the identities, cultures, practices and inner politics of the African Diaspora in Britain and how we (ie British Africans and British West Indians) relate collectively and individually to one another and to our relatives back home.

Back to '08: a lot of people I knew were agog with excitement that a genuine Black British play (quite a rarity at the time) was showing at the Royal Court.

On seeing the play I was blown away. It was truly amazing. Characters I recognised well and fell in love with, dialogue I appreciated (and knew to be authentic), scenarios I truly enjoyed and not an empty lowest-common-denominator stereotype in sight. A classic. Truly the story of us. And the writer, one Bola Agbaje, was on her way to stardom.

So you can only imagine how excited I was to learn that a film a friend invited me to come and 'support' (as his partner's cousin was in it), was in fact the film version of the play Gone Too Far.

I’m glad I went, as I believe I witnessed the beginning of something very special. Not only was the film even more enjoyable than the play (which is quite a statement), but at the premier of the film Bola Agbaje and Destiny Ekaragha (who served as the director) spoke with remarkable frankness about their experiences and the challenges of making the film.

One thing that stood out for me was the fact that they (Bola and Destiny) were told there would be no audience for the film (ie "don’t waste your time and money") as it didn’t contain the usual 'indicators' of successful Black British cinema.

There was no crack addicted single mother, feckless father, gang-bangers, guns, knives and killings. There were no lazy stereotypes.

Hence the powers that be and the 'movie industry experts' couldn’t see how it would 'succeed’ (i.e. make money). Something tells me they’ll be eating humble pie pretty shortly.

This, as I said, is the story of us. We know these characters for we are these characters. We know these scenarios for we lived these scenarios. The dialogue is our daily discussion!

When Gone Too Far goes on general release I strongly urge everyone to go and see it. It’s an excellent film and it is authentically black British - even Peckham library gets a prominent portrayal! Tell a friend to tell a friend.

A lot of the lazy stereotypical and racist garbage in films and TV shows about Black Britain or set within Black Britain are normally written and directed and commissioned and distributed by anyone other than us.

Slowly but surely Bola Agbaje and Destiny Ekaragha and others (such as Roy Agyemang and Ade Solanke) are kicking down doors. Not only are they forcing a change in the narratives about us and how we are portrayed, they are also changing who controls that narrative.

For that, we must be thankful.

This article was originally published on November 17, 2013

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