The British Blacklist Meets the Real Brothers With No Game (Except They Have Quite A lot)

The British Blacklist Meets the Real Brothers With No Game (Except They Have Quite A lot)

...But are there really women sitting there saying Mary Jane is a bad gyal because of her situation? H: Nah, women are sitting there thinking that side chicks are actually winning. WHO! Which woman has specifically said that? H: The other day we were at dinner with three girls and they were like ...

Read More

Optical Illusions of Black Characters on Film: Part 3 Fantasy and Science Fiction

Optical Illusions of Black Characters on Film: Part 3 Fantasy and Science Fiction

Both science fiction and fantasy genres are considered to be excellent vehicles to air and discuss contemporaneous social issues of inequality like race, gender, sexuality, religion, physical ability, psychological state. The use of an alternate setting of time, species or place (including planet or galaxy) is thought to make candid ...

Read More

Optical Illusions of Black Characters on Film: Part 2

Optical Illusions of Black Characters on Film: Part 2

Since the 1980s, as all ethnic groups in western societies have gained access to higher education, occupying wider ranges of jobs, pursuing broader ranges of careers and living in more locations within and outside of major cities, the absolute number of working black actors and film making professionals have also ...

Read More

Jimmy Akingbola on the red carpet for BBC adaptation of Roald Dahl story Esio Griot which he stars.

The British Blacklist Discusses Going Stellar with Jimmy Akingbola...(Part 1 of Our Exclusive Interview)

We, at TBB, had been waiting for confirmation to interview actor Mr Jimmy Akingbola. It seemed serendipitous that it finally happened when it did - right between the premiere of TV movie Esio Trot and the TriForce Short Film Festival. "Hi, lovely to hear from you... you guys have always been ...

Read More

WATCH New The British Blacklist Advert Happy 2nd Birthday #TEAMTBB

WATCH the latest British Blacklist Advert! Happy Birthday Team TBB!!!   TBB Advert Mark One Group from Mark One on Vimeo.

Read More

I’mPossible & The Guardian Launch The Biggest Demographics Survey on British Women of Colour TODAY! Deadline Dec 31st 2014

I'mPossible & The Guardian Launch The Biggest Demographics Survey on British Women of Colour TODAY! Deadline Dec 31st 2014

Today, the biggest online demographics survey on British women of colour has launched by London based social enterprise, I’mPOSSIBLE. Global CIC. Entitled ‘The Invisible majority: defining success and debunking the myths’ , the survey is set to lift the lid on the lives, aspirations, habits and current economic state of women ...

Read More

Leann O’Kasi

Leann O'Kasi

Leann O’Kasi has appeared alongside actors Gregor Fisher and Tony Roper in the BAFTA award-winning BBC2 comedy ‘Rab C. Nesbitt’ and with Gangs of New York actor Gary Lewis in ‘Last Order’. She played the female lead in short film ‘Passing Shadows’ directed by Channel 4 'Coming Up' Director Iftekhar Gafar. On ...

Read More

Sharron Spice

Sharron Spice

No biography available, to update please contact the British Blacklist: info@thebritishblacklist.com

Read More

Abidemi Sanusi

Abidemi Sanusi

Abidemi Sanusi is an author, photographer and founder of Ready Writer - www.thereadywriter.co.uk, a digital content agency and budding film-maker. Born in Nigeria, she moved to the UK in her teens. Abidemi has an MSc in Development Studies, an MA in Christianity & the Arts and in her past life, has ...

Read More

Madison John Speaks to MOBO Nominee Afrikan Boy Ahead of This Weds’ Awards!

Madison John Speaks to MOBO Nominee Afrikan Boy Ahead of This Weds' Awards!

Olushola Ajose better known as Afrikan boy is a Grime MC artist from Woolwich, South East London who is best known for his popular song released on YouTube many years ago 'One Day I Went To Lidl'. Since then, Afrikan Boy took some time out from the music industry to study  for a ...

Read More

Director, Destiny Ekaragha

The British Blacklist's @DescantDeb Goes Pretty Far with Director Destiny Ekaragha

Destiny Ekaragha has a soul full of passion. It's mainly taken up with a love of film, but there's a significant proportion devoted solely to Jollof rice.   Sometimes I'll just stop what I'm saying and start talking about food... Honestly, the amount of interviews where Jollof rice is mentioned... I swear, ...

Read More

Playwright, Ade Solanke

Playwright, Ade Solanke Speaks to The British Blacklist About Her Play 'Pandora's Box'

"I like the British Blacklist! I'm a friend on facebook, actually. You do really interesting stuff. Things have changed completely from 2 or 3 years ago." How can you not immediately take to someone who uses that as an opening greeting? This was my introduction to the multi-talented Ade Solanke, currently ...

Read More

TBB Discusses Science Fiction: The Undiscovered Country with Dr Lez Henry

Dr Lez Henry

Dr Lez Henry

Dr William ‘Lez’ Henry and Brother Hakim are a couple of heroes, doing their bit to raise self-awareness and situational awareness; and they do it through their own passionate love of film. I can relate!
Back in September, Madame TBB sent me an advert for an evening lecture south of the river (**shiver**). The inaugural ‘A Weh Dem a Gwaan Wid? Science Fiction vs Black Fact’ was to be an evening of interactive cinematic enlightenment, co-presented by the duo.

The ad implied they were promising to make you think again about the imagery and messages, both overt and subliminal, that we may have missed in our favourite science fiction movies – suggesting that X-Men (2000) is heavy with black history symbolism; He-Man (animation, 1983-85) is entwined with Marcus Garvey and far from there being no black people in old sci fi like Forbidden Planet (1956), we were very much present, and more!

As TBB’s Optical Illusions suggested, the sci fi genre in any form produces multi-billion dollar-spinning works of art, seen by millions, if not billions of people [1]. I couldn’t resist! If we were all missing something, I wanted to be one of the first to be enlightened!
Then, as time went on, it just seemed serendipitous. So, coincident with the BFI’s Days of Fear and Wonder Science Fiction Season, I was able to catch up with the incredibly busy and in-demand Dr Lez at the start of the BFI’s Afrofuturism weekend to find out how on earth academia and community activism could produce so intriguing a premise.

I attended your Science Fiction vs Black Fact talk back in September, could you tell me what inspired the talk and what inspired you and Brother Hakim to bring your ideas together?

I’ve known Hakim for 10-11 years…our first conversation was about the X-men and the Civil Rights movement. I remember meeting with Hakim and thinking, ‘Wow, this goes a lot deeper than I thought’ … I didn’t really understand it in the way he was breaking it down. So from then, we’ve been close; collaborated on several projects. We use sci fi in our presentations and in our work with young people – we do a lot of work with especially gang-affiliated young people. So, we might use bit of sci fi to get them to think about things. If we’re talking about a surveillant society, you’re not going to say to them, ‘It’s a surveillant society, where the police are looking for patterns of behaviour and you continue to be a criminal.’ You show them a bit of Minority Report (2002) – you use those things to trigger recognition and then understanding.  Years ago… we said we wanted to do something around sci fi. But, for some reason, we just never did it! Then, I spoke to Mark and Charmain (Simpson) from Black History Studies, who I do about 90% of my stuff with now. I was originally gonna do one of my  ‘Ah Weh Dem a Gwaan Wid?’ talks that I’ve been doing for about 12 years, but changing the theme [to] ‘Black Assassination in the Media and on Tel-Lie-vision.’ But, instead, I phoned Hakim, we came up with the title ‘Science Fiction versus Black Fact’ and basically we just put the thing together.

Brother Hakim

Brother Hakim

When the presentation started, several things struck me – the first was that women, black people, in fact any ethnic minority are not supposed to be into sci fi. Yet more than half of the audience were women, most of the audience were black and there were children! This was like the London Screenwriter’s Festival ‘Writing Iconic British Sci Fi’ seminar in 2013, where, again, over half the audience were female, so this is one of those misconceptions that are out there that makes no sense…

Well, women are the ones who invariably support courses and lectures. I’m teaching a course now – 10 women, 3 men. On a course I taught last year of around 27 people – probably about 21 were women. When I give talks, my audiences are invariably about 80% women 20% men.

Also, I thought what was really interesting was that possibly the audience were only there because it had something to do with black people (as part of Black History Studies) and not necessarily sci fi itself, it was still an interactive talk. Was that a conscious decision? 

All our talks are always interactive, otherwise I don’t do them. From day one, when you’re lecturing in University it’s generally boring. But, I spice things up…When I went to Goldsmith’s, I heard that Les Back (sociology) and Paul Gilroy were really good lecturers… They were entertaining and they made you think. So I have always tried to do my thing as interactively as possible. Because, to me, if you’re a teacher you have to be a good student… If you don’t know that you will learn as much from the audience as they will from you; you’re in trouble. That’s how we learn.

There is a powerful sequence from Deep Space 9 (1993-99) Far Beyond the Stars (S6, ep13, 1998) which they use in the talk. Captain Sisko becomes a science fiction writer in racist 1950’s America. Neither Henry nor Hakim knew anything about the episode up until the Saturday before the talk. They gratefully acknowledged the woman who suggested they use it…

I asked the Sister to send me the references and when I saw it, it just blew my head off, because I was oblivious to it… If it’s not interactive, how are you gonna get that information? My mother made me realise that whether it’s a good DJ, a good singer or a good preacher, their job is to move you with the words. So if you’re inviting people into the space, you have to make it conducive to not only mutual learning, but for mutual exchange. It has to be a dialogue. It has to be discursive. It can’t just be this monologue. Where is the antiphonic exchange, as we call it in anthropology (we know it as call and response)… Paul Gilroy said ‘African cultures dissolves the distinction between art and life.’ They’re a living bridge between art and life (I’ve probably paraphrased him terribly). I remember when I read that, it really resonated with me. Because, for me, that’s what it’s all about. If your art can’t live, what is the point? It’s like what you said, how can you watch performance art captured in a moment? It doesn’t make sense!

If we say that Science Fiction vs Black Fact is going to happen several times a year, is the key message – life imitates art imitates life imitates art…? And from any form of art, you shouldn’t build up walls or remove yourself too much because you can always find something of yourself within? I think that really comes across in the lecture; you take these films we know (The Forbidden Planet), films we’ve never heard of, like The World, The Devil and The Flesh (1959, starring Harry Belafonte), The Omega Man (1971) and you make the single audience member relate it directly to self. Because, as we know, there are a lot of our people who don’t know our own history or we understand a sanitised/filtered version… 

To me it was summed up by a Brother who was there who said, “I’m a film maker… never been interested in sci fi, but now I’m gonna go and look at these films!” If you relegate and dismiss something as foolishness, unless something piques your interest, it will always remain so…For example, when people see The Omega Man, they might say, oh that’s just foolishness. Then they’ll see Will Smith’s version I Am Legend (2007), and say, “That’s a really good film – a really good critique of what’s going on now”. But it’s based on The Omega Man.  Octavia Butler spoke in an interview of things that were very similar to themes in The Omega Man. So, if you don’t have a sci fi imagination, our conversations will be very limited. Because somewhere in the conversation, in my mind, I’m gonna slip to sci fi.

Both of these men have reputations for being quite inspirational public speakers. Henry has an impressive academic CV and an impressive sideline in music and poetry (as Lezlee Lyrix), but is also incredibly active in the community, delivering Equality & Diversity training/talks in the public and private sector (NHS included), delivering his ‘Goal Models: striving for self-excellence’ and ‘Guns, Gangs Families & Communities’ empowerment programmes for various Youth Offending Teams, secondary schools and colleges in London boroughs.

Hakim began in the internal exclusion unit of a Tower Hamlets school where he began to use films like The Matrix (1999) to engage in discussions on stereotypes and masculinity. He then developed a peer mentoring programme and, having become known as ‘the Film Doctor’, still pursued his own love in researching Hollywood films and presenting breakdowns on film history. So, put either of them in a small group, especially with kids, they have a way of connecting with them.

So, you had done things with other films, but this is science fiction. Is it that you find it’s just a more effective genre, or is it that you found relevant themes ran most commonly in it?

It’s a bit of both. I thank Stan Lee and Marvel comics for my vocabulary! I’ve been reading Marvel comics for as long as I can remember, when comics were imported… Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men… Superman and Batman are DC, obviously (obviously!). My mind was blown! This opened up a different world for me! Probably when I was about 11… I started to realise that a lot of these things were actually talking about the world. I’ve always been into music. I just listen to the lyrics and what I found was, Marvel comics oftentimes mirrored what was going on in records…I remember reading, I think it was a Daredevil comic… something to do with the American Indians… there was a tune [which] came out called He’s gonna step on you again’ by John Kongos [1971, re-made by Happy Mondays as 'Step On' in 1990]. I remember linking those things together… seeing all these parallels in the comics. Then I started looking at the comics in a much deeper way!

marvel

So, though I love them for entertainment and the way they made me think and for the vocabulary they gave me, they have to be rigorous in what they do – if they mention a scientific formula, it has to be accurate… There was this rationale that what they (authors) were doing reflected reality… I think I picked up a lot of that rigour from there. So, I have always been into science fiction. Always! From George Orwell’s 1984 right through. Especially me as a black youth, sci fi gave me a way to speak about stuff in a way that maybe I wouldn’t be ridiculed, maybe I would be taken seriously in some circles, but more so later on as an academic. What sci fi does, especially through mediums like Marvel comics, is it gives you the tools to imagine. Then you can just go off on as many tangents as you want. It’s divergent thinking.

Yes, sci fi allows the viewer or the reader to be that bit more removed so that they don’t have the direct feelings of guilt, that what they’re reading about or seeing they’re not somehow responsible for, because it’s set in a different time place, species, planet or whatever…

Absolutely, yes.

OK, so you’re a kid, you’re a black youth in South London, you’ve discovered comics, you’ve discovered sci fi. Do you think that had any bearing on you choosing your academic field? Your PhD was social anthropology, right? Was that your undergraduate degree too?

My undergraduate degree was in anthropology and sociology… both disciplines.

Henry is a self-confessed pragmatist. He was expelled from school at 15 for fighting, then college at 16 for fighting, whilst his twin brother did all of his exams and got all his qualifications. He eventually owned the responsibility and began to take evening courses constantly. His wife was convinced he thought just like a sociologist, though prior to his BA, he’d never studied sociology. However, he found himself reading sociology or anthropology texts by authors like Guyanese-born associate professor of Africana Studies Ivan van Sertima, African-American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor W. B. Dubois and, eventually, his greatest mentor – Professor Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe. They met when he took his course in African literature. When he did get his BA, he found out how long it would take to get a PhD and got straight down to it. Unexpectedly, his understanding and appreciation of comics and the sci fi genre just kept expanding.

What I realised was that comics are very sociological pieces of material, because they talk about society. They speak about society, they speak about the nuances of human relationships, they deal with race, gender, age… they’re cross-cultural, they deal with so-called incommensurable works of meaning, which is rubbish, because you can always make sense out of other worlds, if you take a step back, you look and think, ‘Well that is a bit similar to what I do,’ and that is what comics do. So, to me, there’s a tangible link between sci fi and sociology.

In fact, it turns out that every sociologist that Henry has a soft spot for is into science fiction. He recalls early conversations with American and English literature lecturer Paul Gilroy about what he was reading. The young Henry was proud of the range and eclecticism of his reading matter and was happy to say so. But then came the question, ‘Do you read Octavia Butler?’ Henry had never heard of her, to which Gilroy replied, ‘Go and buy Wild Seed,’ [2]. Even in the mainstream it is considered an important piece of speculative fiction and, as we now know, a pivotal work in the Afrofuturist movement…

Blew. My. Mind! If you’ve seen that film with Denzel Washington Fallen (1998), with that touch-possession storyline, read Wild Seed. That film reminds me of that book!

wild_seed_octavia_butler

For me, it was Robert A. Heinlein. I bought The Cat Who Walks Through Walls [3] – it introduced me to a recurring cyborg female character called Friday – amazing. He also wrote The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Puppet Masters and Starship Troopers – both movies now. There were other influences in Henry’s formative years…

… Saturday morning pictures and the B movies, which I loved, would come on first The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Blob, The Creature from Planet X – that is my favourite… Probably, in a lot of ways, they’re what have made me able to laugh at myself. I love B movies, because they’re supposed to be ridiculous and they gave me the freedom to be ridiculous… They don’t take themselves seriously and I think that, as human beings, it’s cathartic for us. We need that release. I can sit down and watch those all day! I can’t sit and watch Eastenders or Strictly, but I can watch the ridiculous.

It’s becoming clearer just how much of the personal journey has gone into the way Henry, and almost certainly Hakim, use the medium of film and the genres which they love and why in combination, they prove to be such powerful communication tools. It is also probably why they make such an effective team, their film appreciation coming from the same place.

I work closely with Hakim – closer than with anybody else, because there is a synchronicity between what we do. We’ll do our separate bits and when they’re put together, they’ll just blend. Now, I’ve been to film breakdowns where people will say, “Well, this is what Wesley Snipes meant,” or “This is what Tarantino meant.” But… if you understand the creative process, you can’t even guarantee what you meant when you wrote something!

But, isn’t that the meaning of art? You produce a work based on your experience, emotions and artistic talent, but you can never recreate that moment of creation. This is why I don’t understand pictures of performance art. If its performance art, surely you have to see the performance to understand anything about it!

Absolutely!

The conversation swings around and we talk about impressions and how powerful artistic interpretation can be, especially when translating text or graphic novels into film. I didn’t like the 5th Harry Potter book, but I liked the film. Henry felt similarly about Guardians of the Galaxy…

I was never into the comics, but as a film, I think it’s one of the best out there… because it doesn’t take itself seriously. That’s why Marvel pulled its release forward a year and its kinda set the benchmark because it got everything in it – its darker than the other films as well. In many ways…. In my opinion, the film that made Marvel and DC fix up was Wesley Snipes’ Blade (1998). Blade was an adult film, no-holds barred, adult film based on how he was in the graphic novels – Blade would chop people up! He never had any time to be interrogating vampires – he’d chop them up, blow them up, shoot them up!

…And that was probably because Wesley Snipes’ production company produced it…

Yep, Amen Ra.

Exactly, so, it might not have been made that way had a ‘mainstream’ company attempted it. The white companies will produce by numbers which say comics and sci fi are a 15-22 year old demographic – children. White, male, children. So wrong.

…And for me, Blade, knocked all of that out of the water!

As we begin to wrap up our conversation, the aim of the Science Fiction vs Black Fact talk becomes clearer…

Blade for me just transcended vampire movies and we use it in our talks. It’s like The Matrix. People gravitate toward The Matrix and watch it without realising that Blade is the same. There’s an underground – two worlds. The world you think you know and the other, underneath that world, or parallel to it. So, now when we suggest that Europe has got us brainwashed into thinking certain things as African people. We can speculate that there’s another world where African people are doing all of the things they’re telling us that African people cannot do. But we’re not exposed to that world. That’s what Blade does! He’s Blade, but what is he? He’s an amalgamation of so many different cultures – Japanese (Samurai style and sword), African symbolism because of the way he dresses and what he represents. Because Blade was almost like a Black Panther! If you read the comics, that’s more or less what he was about! Two worlds – how do you cope with that? You bridge the two worlds. You’re a vampire, you can walk in the day, but you’re trying to do something about that nasty side, that feeds on people. That’s what blade is about.

That’s what sci fi does for me. It gives you a way to think beyond these little petty restraints like race or gender. It gives you a way to imagine different worlds with different people. Maybe aliens, or whatever. Because, if you think about it, what is an alien? An alien is someone who does things differently. “You ain’t from around here, are ya boy?” That’s an alien. But how alien is what they do? That’s what is interesting for me. And that’s why myself and Hakim and some other people love sci fi, we love it!

So, with this insight into one of the minds behind Science Fiction vs Black Fact, I would urge you, should they repeat the talk or expand their ideas, stay tuned. If this is the reasoning behind the inspiration, can you imagine the ride they take us on over two hours in South London (**shiver**)?

To find out more about Dr Lez Henry go to: http://www.drlez.co.uk/about-us

 

interview with Dr Lez Henry for the british blacklist by  @DescantDeb

 

TBB’s Nora Denis Reviews Lionboy @ Tricycle Theatre Until 10th January 2015

lionboy_tricycle_theatre

Physical theatre company Complicite revive their hit play Lionboy, adapted from the novels by Zizou Corder and it is not to be missed. The fun filled, adventure story comes to life on a compact stage at the Tricycle Theatre through the colourful set and intimate proximity between stage and seating, inviting allusions of a lazy afternoon spent contently listening to a tall tale unfolding through the medium of a charismatic storyteller.

The audience are introduced to a league of characters almost all at once; jumping in one after the other in a comical and boisterous manner, each standing out in their own distinct way, cramming around centre stage to explain how they would tell a story. Finally  Charlie Ashanti (Martins Imhangbe) speaks up and the lights dim slowly and subtly. The focus then closes in on Charlie, a ‘little boy’ who comes home one day to find his parents have disappeared. A smart boy, Charlie knows better than to trust his teenage neighbour, Rafi (Angel Lopez-Silva), he recalls the wise words his mother taught him: ‘Nullius in Verba’ (Latin) meaning: ‘take nobody’s word for it’. Charlie manages to escape Rafi’s clutches and embarks on an adventure that will vigorously test his courage, loyalty and moral standards.

Based on the original concept and production by Annabel Arden, the current revival of Lionboy comes as the result of the combined efforts of directors Clive Mendas and James Yeatman, along with award-winning playwright Marcelo Dos Santos. Between the aggressive dancing of an “in-your-face” teenager, a circus acrobat idly swinging from a raised hula-hoop and a young boy with a special skill and a knack for making fearsome foes and four-legged friends, what you get is a formula for a magical and exciting show which truly exemplifies the full meaning of the word ‘show’.

The cast as a unit shine in the variety of the interchangeable roles they personify and each individually delivers a strong and memorable performance. Each persona distinguishable by a single gesture; a smirk; a manner of walking; each detail mastered. The brief interactions between performers and audience members (of which was compromised primarily of children and their carers) added to the story telling/pop-up book theme without crossing over to pantomime, and the visually creative movement of the set and performers remained engaging and held the attention of the younger members of the audience throughout the (roughly) ninety minute play.

Lionboy is a successful combination of good writing, imaginative story-telling techniques, vibrant set design and talented actors and actresses. It is a thoughtful piece of theatre which raises important questions relating to topics such as ethical scientific practices and the dangers of an increasingly capitalist society, while remaining non-patronising and loyal to it’s youthful target audience. Lionboy is a spectacle to be seen, a treat for the whole family.

Lionboy is at the Tricycle Theatre until 10 January 2015.

For for more information visit: http://www.tricycle.co.uk/current-programme-pages/theatre/theatre-programme-main/lionboy/

 

 

review of  Lionboy by Nora Denis / @lifeandstuff  for the british blacklist

Counting Down to Film Caribbean UK 2014: Founder, Ron Belgrave Shares Some Thoughts

Ron Belgrave, founder of Sankofa Televisual & Film Caribbean UK

Ron Belgrave, founder of Sankofa Televisual & Film Caribbean UK

Ron Belgrave, founder of Sankofa Televisual and director of the almost-unique Film Caribbean UK Festival, has a very clear vision of what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. I asked him about the journey which led him here…

I love stories and I also loved reading. But I’m lazy…so I like to watch stories on television. Whilst it might take 2 weeks to read a book, you can watch a good film in 2 hours. The problem I’ve had for many years is that I haven’t been seeing stuff on television, at the cinemas, that reflects me and is in tune with what I’d like to see. I used to shout at the TV for years…then, my wife and daughters finally had enough and said, “Do something about it!” So, I took up the challenge, and towards the end of 2011 I started talking to a couple of TV companies. At the end of 2011/start of 2012, I set up Sankofa Televisual, which was just to give me some kind of a framework within which to operate to try and improve the visibility of black people within Britain.

I noticed you re-tweeted my tweet about black images mattering (I did)…that to me is fundamental to what I’m doing. It’s about how it affects black and white people.  Not only are we simply under-represented on screen, but it’s about the way we are represented on screen and that affects everyone. I’ve got children and grandchildren and I want the world in which they grow up in to be a much better place. The way our minds are affected by the images that are pumped into them all day, every day in this society undermines that.

I set up Sankofa Televisual to try and help counter that. I set (it) up with the intention of enhancing the quantity and quality of black visibility in Britain on-screen. But, I’m from the Caribbean, and I’m old enough now to see how young British Caribbeans are different to young British Africans. Africans in Britain are very clued up, relatively speaking, about their culture. They’re proud of their culture and I think we see that reflected in the number of African television stations on satellite and cable. Whereas, the British Caribbean community, even though we’ve been here quite as long as the British African community, we are simply lacking in impact. Our young people simply don’t have, not only that sense of cultural identity, but they don’t even have any desire, really, to have an association with the Caribbean. I think that’s a shame.

… Do you think that might be because we are that bit more removed from direct African influence and culture and whilst quite heavily influenced by English culture… Our parents and grandparents who first came here were very much from the British Caribbean then subsequently, maybe around the 80s and 90s, certainly Jamaic, became very much influenced by African American culture. So, I wonder if that has anything to do with… this idea of a confused identity that the Caribbean community seem to have…

The short answer to all of that is, Yes. Some people will say that it’s unfair to compare the British Caribbean with the British African community in terms of how culturally aware the young people are, because the Caribbean community has had… extra generations to lose its identity… We’re absolutely not clear about what Caribbean culture is. What does it look like? What does it feel like? And our parents didn’t really have a strong sense of their own cultural identity to begin with, because language, names, religion – all of that had been taken away from them…

Actually, we came here around a similar time to a lot of Asian communities but, their young people still retain quite strong cultural identities… All the things (language, names, religion) that the Asian community still have (is) what keeps their communities strong and tight… Including the religious stations, there are probably around 6 African TV stations, but in comparison, there are around 60 Asian stations. A lot of them are sustained by the businesses… and the businesses are sustained partly because of cultural identity. That’s why, almost 70 years since the Empire Windrush, you can see next to no Caribbean shops on the street, apart from the odd barber and hairdresser and when you look at who is being successful in the black community in Britain, it’s the Africans. I’m saying we need to step up to the plate as well.

So, that’s why, for now, I’m focussing on issues around the Caribbean, pushing Caribbean identity and visibility, as opposed to Africa… Although there is a short film in the Festival that is by a Nigerian guy raised by a Caribbean woman. It’s about making those links as well.

Film_Caribbean_logo_06

Do the issues of identity affect the kind of films you tend to select?

Yes, it does. I’m old enough now to recognise that change can take a very long time and I’m in this for the long haul… The film selection is around the Caribbean. It’s about making the link between the Caribbean and the Diaspora in the UK. There are some films direct from the Caribbean and some films from the Caribbean Diaspora… I don’t do any films with the N-word… I don’t do films with unnecessary violence, swearing, sex or stuff like that. It’s not prudery, it’s about what is valuable in terms of taking our community forward. Some of the films will still be controversial… and I try to get films where there’s a good balance of male and female lead roles. Particularly around women in the films, the parts are substantive, and dark-skinned women have prominent roles as well. Because they’re often very marginalised in film… All films shown in the festival are in English and are certificate 15, so minimum age.

And how do you find the submission rate for these qualifying points?

… At this early stage… there are three sources I use at the moment… Sankofa Televisual also does distribution. So, there are a couple of films that I distribute myself. There are other films that I just became aware of and I approached the producers who then provided their films.Then the third avenue is where people heard it was happening and volunteered themselves…This is the first year of Film Caribbean UK. I’ve done screenings before, like Keeping up with the Joneses movie… back in March and I’ve done a few others.

OK, so this is the inaugural Film Caribbean UK – how exciting! You have 10 films, I’d love to hear about some of the offerings.

The Festival is over three nights – the 15h, 16th and 18th, with three headline films and then a number of short films supporting them… I very much like ordinary life, so… all of the stories tend to be about ordinary, but interesting life. On the first night, the headliner is Payday, which is a youth comedy-drama, which should actually be entertaining for people of all ages… it’s about a day in their life (in Barbados)… and all the various hurdles that get in the way as they try to make a transition – they’re starting a business. Its well scripted by Shakira Bourne (Barbados)… and is really well put-together…

Payday (2014, Dir. Selwyne Browne) is supported by Rebecca’s Story (Guyana) and Small World (UK-Jamaica).
The second main film is called Consumed which is from the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Maarten. Because, of course, there isn’t just the English-speaking Caribbean. This is an action-drama about a woman whose husband is accidentally killed, but when she hears that the robber is going to be released from jail because of some political amnesty, she seeks to get revenge. There are various things which happen as a spin-off to that.
Consumed (2014, Dir. Peter Sagnia) is supported by Just Action (Jamaica), Heart-Shaped Box (Jamaica) and Victor Richards (reggae poet)

The final night is a film called The Skin, which is a supernatural thriller – not quite horror. But, it’s about Caribbean mythology and folklore around spirits and the Soucayant, which is like a… Caribbean vampire – an old woman who sucks all the life out of you – your blood, sheds her skin then takes on your persona. That stars legendary Jamaican actor Carl Bradshaw (The Harder They Come) and Jeff Stewart (The Bill) – two real contrasts… Jeff will be there at the screening to take part in the Q&A at the end and, if all the technology works, so will Carl Bradshaw by video-link…
The Skin (2011, Dir. Howard Allen) is supported by All About The McKenzies (UK-Antigua-Jamaica), Last Customer (UK-St. Vincent-Nigeria) and JJ Soulx (UK-Jamaican singer).

sankofa televisual

It sounds like a good solid idea and you’ve been building support by doing these other smaller related presentations under the Sankofa Televisual banner. I think this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful thing…

Well, I hope so. I’m not expecting to set the world alight, especially in the short term, because this is all about changing hearts and minds. Shifting mindsets takes a long time, especially when you’re up against huge beasts like Hollywood, the BBC, Sky, ITV and all of those. Especially when we’re a fractured and dis-united community already. But it’s step-by-step… The institutional inertia against us is huge – absolutely huge!

Tell me about ‘Sankofa’, the meaning of the word itself.

It’s a word from Ghana – the Twi language of the Ashanti people from a set of Adinkra symbols, which basically means, knowing your history is a good thing (a kind of colloquial translation). The symbol is actually a bird with a long neck leaning backwards, picking up one of its eggs. It’s all about that cycle – looking back, but also re-birth. Knowing where you’ve come from, knowing your roots, knowing your culture, is a strength for the future moving forward… There are studies which show that more comfortable you are, the more clear you are about your cultural identity, the more successful you are in society, because you’ve got that inner peace which leads to inner strength and an ability to deal with situations and scenarios.

Belgrave makes a powerful case for those of us who understand and support his sentiments, but might be at a loss as to where to start. Film Caribbean UK starts this evening. Why not start by checking out the running order and venues at http://www.sankofa-tv.co.uk/index.php/filmcaribbeanuk and get your tickets!
I’m really excited to attend the final evening’s offerings and I’d love to see as many people as the Gate Picturehouse (Notting Hill, London) can take.

 

 

 

 

interview for the british blacklist by  @DescantDeb

Tammy Speaks to New Artist Callmethekidd For TBB

CallMeTheKidd

CallMeTheKidd

Callmethekidd is a writer, producer and artist hailing from North London, with the release of his new ‘EP 2ND2N: The Movie’ and single ‘Jungle’ and opening shows for the likes of Little Simz, Ghetts and Chipmunk, he is well on his of establishing himself as a credible artist. With his sights set on expanding his fan base and the prospect of releasing new music in early 2015 he is a young man with a plan. I caught up with the artist to speak about his musical influences, donating to charity and his future goals.

Hi Callmethekid. How are you?

Hi how are you doing Tammy. I’m good.

That’s great. So why must we ‘Call you the kid’, where did you get your name?

Well that kind of started on one of the tracks I released last year. Basically I used the name Kid Dynamite before which was a name I started using when I was younger. I released the track and I said ‘Call me the kid’ and from there it just started catching on, people actually thought that was my name. It was my twitter [handle] as well so I thought I might as well change my name.

When did you know you wanted to start making music?

Well to be honest I’ve always been interested in making music from when I was young. I had two Michael Jackson albums on tape, ‘Bad’ and ‘Thriller’ and I used to always play them and dance around…I actually started out dancing and then I got into producing but only started taking things seriously in my early teens. I was really into RnB and Hip Hop then because I have three older sisters, especially the commercial which is where I got my feel for that type of sound. Then obviously being from the UK, when Grime came about I was in Secondary School and it played a huge part in what I was doing. I think it was when Dizzee Rascal dropped ‘I Love You’ that I really started following the Grime movement and pirate radio, it influenced my sound at that time.

So musically who are your influences?

Well I’m a producer first so in terms of producing and writing I am a big fan of Timbaland, Kanye West, Drake is another big influence I really like what he’s doing right now. There are other people outside of Hip Hop and RnB, I dabble in other genres like pop so I might like something Ed Sheeran does or I might hear a soft-rock track like Coldplay.

Okay that’s quite eclectic. Can you tell us about your new song ‘Jungle’ and the concept of the video?

Really the whole track is about when a guy is with a girl and the different thoughts that go through his mind. So on the one-side you have the sweet boy who wants to take the girl out and wine-and-dine her and have a nice time, and then the flip-side is he just wants to take her to his room and get wild! So the concept of the video reflects the track, the main scene is a ‘fantasy jungle’ so it’s not necessarily reality but that is what is in the guy’s mind. So while they are out on a date in the city and doing all the nice things, really what they want to be doing is portrayed in the jungle scene. Or at least that is what we were trying to show.

As a new artist, if you had to compare your music and sound to anybody in the industry, who would it be and why?

Wow! Well that’s a really tough one, to compare myself, I would have to say a mixture of Drake and on the production side I would compare myself to Timbaland I’ve always been a fan of how he composes his beats in particularly his drum patterns and I take a lot of inspiration from him when I am producing music like ‘Jungle’. I look up to him a lot and I love what he does, especially his stuff from early 2000-2010.

Your EP is called ’2ND2N: The Movie’ where did you get the title from, what does it mean?

2ND2N for those who don’t know stands for “Second to None” so it’s basically me saying that I am second to none and that’s why I was saying it’s hard for me to compare myself to other artist because I feel like I am like no one else to be honest. I do my own thing and even if I do a track and it may sound like a Drake styled track or along those lines I always do it in my own way.
‘The Movie’ was actually two things, firstly with where I’m from and the kind of slang we use you might say “I like your Coat, that Coat is looking like a movie” so we use that to express that something is really good. As well as that, with the tracks and the whole project I was trying to make something that could be compared musically to a movie.

Oh so like telling a story?

Yeah. So for example there are tracks like ‘Let it Shine’ that really kind of capture that concept, that I am telling a story and even ‘Jungle’ which is less of a story you can still actually visualise it by just listening to the track, so that’s what I aimed to create.

You wrote and produced majority of the EP, what was your process, how did it come together?

Well the thing about the EP it was never planned to be put out as a project, in fact the EP is actually a compilation of music I made between 2011 and the early stages of 2014, so there are a lot of different types of tracks, you would listen to ‘Jungle’ and think that it sounds very different from some of the stuff I have on there. So the music I made over those 3 years was stripped down and put together for the project and it was really because I had made a lot of music and I really wanted to get it out there.
So the writing and production process was gradual, I always start off with a beat and from there I work on a chorus, I like to make feel good music so normally I just flow with it, make a melody and then start putting words to it. For some of the tracks, I said I want to make a concept track for example, ‘Let it Shine’ being one of the most recent tracks I made that and ‘Jungle’ in late 2013 so tracks like that I make concepts but most others come from the beat.

You’ve been the opening act for people like Chipmunk and Ghetts etc. How have these experiences helped you when it comes to performances?

Being an opening act, the crowd isn’t there for you, they came to see the main act so being on stage and seeing the feedback and seeing that they like this track or that track it gave me a good idea as to what people wanted to hear. You can study for instance, when you’re at a Chipmunk show, the kind of people that are there, why they like him and what they would like out of my music. I also got to watch them perform and take in how they performed, how they moved, their presence on stage and the tracks they chose to perform. For example, something can be great on record but in a performance they might do a remix of a popular song etc. It was just an eye opener and gave me a lot of ideas for some of my stuff.

The proceeds for your track ‘Jungle’ are going to Macmillan Cancer Support. Do you think more artists should give back?

Yeah. I think that for me it’s more of a personal thing. The story behind that is basically about 10 days before releasing my EP an aunty of mine passed away from cancer and we always hear about these things and it doesn’t feel linked to you in anyway because you don’t know someone personally who has gone through it. When that did happen, it became so real, I saw the pain she was going through, I saw her a few hours before she passed away and I just wanted to do something, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision.

So with other artists I think it is always a great idea to do something like that. I think with certain artists it shouldn’t be all about the money, they should give back  in any way they can whether it be underprivileged young people, a charity etc., it’s a great thing.

What are your plans for the next year?

Well as I mentioned before my EP was my way of clearing all the music I’ve done so far, so I want to work on some new music in the next year. It’s going to have a different sound, more on the lines of ‘Jungle’ with a commercial edge to it with me doing a lot more singing. So it’s just a lot more music, singles and videos. I want people to appreciate my music and hopefully get more stuff on TV, radio and expand my fan base.

Where can we find out more about you?

You can check out my website www.callmethekidd.com I try to keep it as up-to-date as possible so I have my latest videos on there and my bio, dates for shows, when I’m doing photo shoots and all that good stuff.

You can also catch me on Twitter - @CallMeTheKidd

interview for the british blacklist by @Tammyvm

Inside Afrofuturism at the BFI 2014 by @DescantDeb

bfi-inside

Ashley Clark is a journalist by trade, but he also does an interesting sideline in programming for the BFI. This year, he curated the Inside Afrofuturism long weekend – 28th November – 1st December. This was a sci fi experience to close the sci fi experience that was the “Days of Fear and Wonder” season at the BFI (October – December 2014).

Clark quotes author Ytasha Womack to offer up a description, “Afrofuturism combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, Afrocentricity and magic realism with non-western beliefs.”  The term was further discussed within the panel discussions which followed some of the screenings – some people subscribe to it, some people don’t. Clark himself writes, “It represents a flexible artistic aesthetic and a framework for critical theory applicable to multimedia work concerned with imagined and alternative black experiences.”

Over four days, Clark brought together four features – Born in Flames* (1983), Space is the Place (1974), The Brother from Another Planet (1984) and Sankofa (1993); two documentaries – Ornette: Made in America (1985) and The Last Angel of History* (1996); three shorts – Robots of Brixton (2011), Afronauts (2014) and Pumzi (2009); two post-screening* panel discussions and one talk – Afrika Bambaata in Conversation with Don Letts.

TBB  attended a selection, which began with a short.

Friday: Robots of Brixton. Made in 2011, director-animator Kibwe Tavares  has created an alternative Brixton. His Brixton is inhabited by the new disenfranchised class – the workers. The robots. From the budget I’m guessing he had, he did a remarkable job in creating these serenely beautiful, cheerless androids who, despite their strength and obvious superiority in many respects lack the power to change their fate. Original scenes are spliced with media footage of crime and unrest, as a melancholy patois-flavoured prose over urban beats completes this intense, bleak 6 minute experience. It ends with a quote from Karl Marx, 1852 – “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Beautiful and sad.

Born in Flames, 1983, was directed by feminist film maker Lizzie Borden – the daughter of a white Detroit stockbroker – over four years in a documentary style. She sets her story in an alternative USA ten years after an apparently near-bloodless social democratic war of liberation. It follows the new revolution led by women which, because of the previous revolution, is having a hard time being heard or gaining momentum – even from likeminded groups. The narrative focuses on African-American Phoenix Radio DJ Honey, white Radio Regazza DJ-singer Isabella, three white female interns at the Socialist Youth Review newspaper, one of the Captains of the Women’s Army Adelaide Norris and her mentor Zella Wylie – both African-American. Each has their conflicting views of what is being done and what needs to be done to improve the lot of women who fare worse under the new social order – especially those in minority groups of race and sexuality and of low social class.

I had a hard time seeing this as truly afrofuturistic. Much of the associated poster imagery is of Honey wearing her trademark headband and broadcaster’s earphones which does make her look cyborg-esque. There is also another from the famous Women’s Army cycle patrol rescuing a Latina from rape featuring a black member. But it is an optical illusion. This seemed to be one of those movies which, because half of the cast are black and around half of the soundtrack is music of black origin, somehow this allows it to qualify. This film begins and ends with the white characters and in between are the once and future black characters that we all know. In my view, it doesn’t.
As a speculative feminist, socialistic or sexuality piece, it works. For example, Norris says she would like to have all the men become women and all the men become women for a day, just so that men could, “… see the shit… the walls women have to climb…” and women could, “… see what they’ve been denied…”

In fact, in a Bitch Magazine interview with author Ytasha L. Womack, the point is made in addition to it being ‘… an expression of critical race theory, imagining the future and reexamining the past with the lens of African diaspora.’ Womack said, “… Professor Alondra Nelson identified Afrofuturism as a feminist space in that women feel very comfortable expressing themselves in whatever way they want. Women artists create their own stories and narratives and the expressions are uniquely individual. There is no one way that an Afrofuturist woman expresses herself… Afrofuturism is also a space where men are comfortable embracing feminine aspects of humanity including valuing intuition, the power of feelings and celebrating beauty and nature…. Mainstream feminism could benefit from the sense of balance that Afrofuturism has around expression…” [1].

However, in terms of race, this film simply shows what some within the black community have been doing historically, contemporaneously and, I suspect, will be doing in the future. There was nothing new here from an African-American point of view, nothing to educate or discover which was unique to the black experience. Norris does prove pivotal to the unification of all of the disparate revolutionary voices, but even that role is an all too familiar one – dying in police custody under suspicious circumstances… By presenting Born in Flames as part of the concept of Afrofuturism, it actually detracted from the experience and, possibly, did a disservice to the film itself.

The discussion which followed was chaired by Gaylene Gould and included Emma Dabiri, Jemma Desai and Sophie Mayer. I found very little in the panel discussion to change my opinion and, in fact, felt it belonged in a conference for academics and not in an institute of film lovers come to hear an accessible dialogue from a selection of ‘experts’.

Saturday:

Afronauts, 2014, is directed by African-American Frances Bodamo for her pre-thesis film (NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film Program). It is a hugely atmospheric 13 minutes of worry and whimsy, focussing on the preparation of a 17 year old albino girl, Matha Mwamba, and 2 cats as they undergo weightlessness, buoyancy and isolation training in a makeshift space academy in the Zambian desert. She is the nation’s only hope of beating the superpowers to a moon landing in the Bantu-7 rocket in 1969, and is based on a true story. The Sea Bright, New Jersey location is made to feel haunting and slightly surreal not least because of the extraordinary Diandra Forrest and her ethereal look and large, constantly shifting eyes (horizontal nystagmus), which is only heightened by the choice to shoot in black and white. Her Aunty worries about her safety and the grade school science teacher/space program director Edward Makuka Nkoloso, is confident. Perhaps over-confident.

Afronauts (2014), Space is The Place (1974)

Afronauts (2014), Space is The Place (1974)

Space is the Place, 1974, is directed by John Coney and is hailed as the font from which all subsequent Afrofuturist works have flowed. It tells the story of Sun Ra – the jazz musician playing a version of himself – who returns to Earth having gone missing with his band, the Arkestra, on tour some years before. They have been living an idyllic life on a distant planet on which the black race possess everything they do not have on Earth and have returned, powered by music to take a colony back with them. The reward – to be seen, to be included, to be real (not having to seek civil rights). He battles his nemesis, the establishment and status quo in the form of pimp and gangster, The Overseer, in a cosmic game of cards with everything to play for, before it is apocalyptically too late.
It is philosophical, cognisant, fantastic and trippy and very much in the Blaxploitation style. It also features music in many jazz styles from the Arkestra, with vocals by Jane Tyson uttering the famous words, “It’s after the end of the world, don’t you know that yet?” amongst others. I had to agree, this is Afrofuturism!

Sunday:

The last film was The Last Angel of History (1996), a documentary/science fiction narrative directed by John Akomfrah. He also narrates the story of the data-thief who forgoes his place in his own time, 200 years in the future, to travel back and forth in history in search of the key to the future. He starts at ‘The Crossroads’, pinpointing the moment at which Robert Johnson reportedly ‘sold his soul to the Devil’ and first played the Blues. Talking heads such as Goldie, astronaut Bernard Harris, DJ Spooky, writer Greg Tate and actress Nichelle Nichols (the original Uhura) amongst others, discuss science fiction and Afro-futurism, Black pop culture, outer space, the human condition… And the music;
specifically, Funk’s George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Reggae’s Lee “Scratch” Perry and, of course, Jazz’s Sun Ra. They each give their view on the influence of those MOBO greats on their own forms of music, particularly electronic music, such as garage, jungle, techno.

This led on to the panel discussion, hosted by the curator himself, the likeable Ashley Clark. he chaired the proceedings which included academic Mark Bould, curator of the Harlem Afrofuturism exhibition Zoe Whitely and writer-musician (and Trinidadian) Anthony Joseph.
I enjoyed this discussion. Though it did stray into abstract, academic ideas, it actually focused very much on the music, and audience members had some additions of their own. Clark admitted that he had also compiled a sonic companion to experience much, and more, of the music which proved significant to the development and establishment of the genre [2] through Spotify®. For the three who ‘work within’ the genre, the term afrofuturism was a useful one with which to start artistic, academic, corporate discourse to, “… change the landscape to discover African-based literature which was not registering in the mainstream…” (-Bould). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the artist who creates his version of speculative prose, Joseph disliked the term. He did not wish to be categorised as anything but a writer and musician – not a black sci fi writer or an afrofuturist. I understood his point. For such a discussion, the academic take seemed awfully Victorian in its desire to classify and codify something new or different, which is borne out of a community’s expressive outlet – an oppressed community’es expressive outlet. The term itself originates outside of that community.

There was some discussion by the panel and in the film of seminal literary works by authors such as Octavia Butler and Samuel Ray Delaney Jr.
I found it strange that there was very little discussion of film and comics – especially since this was a film festival in a film institute; I had just interviewed Dr. William ‘Lez’ Henry about sci fi film as part of a popular lecture he co-presents as part of South London’s Black History Studies [3]- forthcoming. I suggested that comics and graphic novels, as a rich source of science fiction films, had been depicting black characters and superheroes since the 1940s [4] and had also made their case for alternative timelines and fortunes of the African race. They agreed, in general, and it led to an interesting digression, with comments from all panel members. But the conversation was brought back to music by the audience.

So, that was Ashley Clark’s 2014 Afrofuturism series, generally very well attended in NT 3 at the BFI. It was interesting that, though black audience members were in the minority at each session I attended, the number did grow into double digits by Sunday – and most of the questions from them that night. It did occur to me, sadly, that, like so many things African, mainstream popularity or academisation can render an artistic movement inaccessible to the very people it is supposed to be celebrating. I wrote as much of the global success of Township Tech unknown to the people who live and die by it – the black South Africans [5].

Still, this was hugely interesting, and each of these films are available from various sources and well worth checking out, as well as the deeply engaging background. I look forward to Clark’s plans for next year.

article for the british blacklist by  @DescantDeb

 

Page 1 of 326123»