Audiences rally around Rapman’s Blue Story after film pulled from Vue and Showcase cinemas

Following a mass brawl in Birmingham, the two cinema chains made the decision to indefinitely suspend screenings of the director’s debut

BLUE STORY CAST AND CREW: (left to right) Stephen Odubola, Rapman at the premiere of Blue Story

AUDIENCES HAVE rallied around Rapman by supporting his debut feature film Blue Story after Vue and Showcase cinemas pulled the film from screenings nationwide.

Supporters of the director, whose real name is Andrew Onwubolu, urged cinemagoers to watch it in alternative cinema chains and it seems as though their calls, and that of those connected with the film, have been heeded.

Blue Story has made £1.3 million at the UK box office in its opening weekend despite the reduction in showings, Screen Daily reported today.

“We lost nearly half of our screens on the third day but we still made history with 1.3m in three days. Blue Story is number three in the UK box office. Thank you,” Onwubolu tweeted.

Reporting the figures, Screen Daily described them as “an excellent result for a debut feature director with a largely unknown cast; even more so when taking into account the film’s removal from many locations”.

The film, which follows the lives of Timmy (Stephen Odubola) and Marco (Michael Ward), best friends who end up on rival sides of a never-ending cycle of postcode gang war, has a message of anti-violence but despite the film’s stance it was removed from listings at the two chains after a mass brawl at a Vue in Star City leisure centre in Birmingham.

Police were called to the complex on Saturday following reports that young people had been spotted with machetes.

Seven officers were injured and five teenagers were arrested – including a 13-year-old girl – during the incident that is believed to have involved around 100 people.

Joy Gharoro, whose company Joi Productions co-produced the film, said: “Blue Story is a film about friendship, love and a call to end gun and knife violence, and is especially resonant at a time when society is unsure of how to tackle this problem. As a majority people of colour cast and crew we have sought to create a piece of cinema that engages with young and old to tell a cautionary tale rooted in authenticity.”

“A film does not incite violence…people incite violence”

Joy Gharoro, co-producer of Blue Story

She added: “When a distressing incident occurs, such as this weekend at Star City, it is blamed on the collective and not the individuals, stripping away the messaging of the film. A film does not incite violence, nor does a video game, nor does a music video, nor does music. People incite violence and those people should be held accountable. We have had a fantastic opening weekend, with acclaim from both critics and audiences alike, so I urge people to continue to support the film and to decide for themselves.” 

Some critics of the cinema ban have called the response racist, drawing comparisons with the Metropolitan Police’s crackdown on black British music via the 696 form and others have urged patrons to boycott Vue and Showcase cinemas.

Kehinde Andrews, professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, said the film had been used as a scapegoat and the response of the cinema chains had further marginalised those who need protection.

In a statement, BBC Films, which developed and co-financed the film, said: “We are appalled by the incident at Star City and our thoughts are with all those affected by it. Blue Story is an outstanding, critically acclaimed debut feature which powerfully depicts the futility of gang violence. It’s an important film from one of the UK’s most exciting new filmmakers which we’re proud to be part of.”

Paramount Pictures said: “We were saddened to see the events that unfolded at Star City and our sympathies are with all those affected.

“We feel that this is an important film, which we’ve seen play in more than 300 cinemas across the country, with incredibly positive reactions and fantastic reviews.”

Onwubolu, the creator of hit YouTube series Shiro’s Story, has received critical acclaim for his debut feature and been long-listed for The British Independent Film Institute Douglas Hickox award for debut director.

This evening Showcase reinstated showings of the film.

Vue cinemas did not respond to The Voice’s multiple requests for comment.

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