TBB's @DescantDeb Opines: An Interesting Take on Race and Romance at the 2015 BFI Love Season

2015 has seen the British Film Institute (BFI) take very real steps to redress the imbalance of audience exposure to the untold stories and unheard story tellers which, contrary to mainstream belief (and as TBB can attest), actually exist in great numbers within the British film industry.  Arrangements were unveiled ...

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(l-r) Stars of web series, 'Wedding Dates' Daniel Rusteau as 'Sean' &  Chinwe A.Nwokolo as 'Jamie'

TBB's Nora Denis Reflects on Web Series 'Wedding Dates' by Daniel Rusteau & BWNG TV

The web series, Wedding Dates, commissioned earlier this year by BWNG TV, is set to return for a second season. This upcoming instalment inspired us at TBB to refresh our memories and take look at back at season one. Created by Daniel Rusteau, a familiar face on BWNG TV (Brothers With ...

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WHOOP WHOOP The British Blacklist is Nominated in 2nd Screen Nation Digital-iS Media Awards 2015 VOTES OPEN NOW!!!

Team TBB are honoured to have received the news that The British Blacklist have been officially nominated in the 2nd Screen Nation Digital-iS Media Awards in the 'Favourite Arts Entertainment Magazine' category!!! CAST YOUR VOTES FOR US NOW!!! The Digital is Media Awards is an annual online awards covering up to 12 ...

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Georgina Campbell

Georgina Campbell To Star in New Channel 4 Comedy 'Tripped'

Tripped is a brand new comedy – drama set in parallel universes. Blake Harrison (The Inbetweeners) stars as Danny, an average 24-year-old who has been friends with stoner Milo (George Webster) since they were kids. But then Danny decides it’s time to grow up, settle down and marry long-term girlfriend Kate ...

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TBB speaks to Amanda Wilson Ahead of Book Launch of ‘Letters to A Young Generation’ Featuring Words From Kanya King, Ms Dynamite, Bianca Miller and More

Amanda Wilson was born in London, but spent her formative years growing up in west Sussex. In 2014 her company published the unique book, ‘Letters to a Young Generation’, a collection of 13 letters from men who understand what it's like to be a black male growing up in the ...

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TBB Presents: The Case For Black Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy On Screen: Part 4

In Part 3 (read here), we began our dissection of 51 years of black female characters in SFF television, starting with Nichelle Nichols' appearance as Lt. Uhura in episode 1 of Star Trek: The Original Series, March 1966. We also declared this the first non-stereotyped black female character on weekly ...

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CASTING OPPORTUNITY With Twenty Twenty Productions - MUST Be Available Wednesday 2nd December in London

Are you an actor or actress looking for your next big role? Or are you looking for your first break in the industry? Do you want the chance to audition for two of Britain’s top award-winning producers? Twenty Twenty Productions is developing a brand new series for a major UK broadcaster ...

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Richie Campbell as 'Nightingale' in ITV's 'The Frankenstein Chronicles'

Richie Campbell Drops Some Wise Words With TBB Ahead of 'The Frankenstein Chronicles' Premiere Tonight 10pm on ITV Encore

Richie Campbell is an interesting young actor who has taken on a wide range of roles on both screen and stage. He read communications and cultural studies at Goldsmith's and, as a result, thinks quite deeply about his craft. On Wednesday 11th of November 2015, all of his years of ...

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Adjoa Andoh as 'Peaches' Photo by Mark Douet

TBB's Tammy V Speaks to Actress Adjoa Andoh About Her Current Role in 'A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes' Showing @ Tricycle Theatre NOW

I had the pleasure of speaking to Adjoa Andoh one the stars of the highly acclaimed play 'A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes' which is still showing at The Tricycle Theatre until the 14th November. It was one of the most pleasant and effortless interviews I have done, with a woman ...

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Gina Prince-Bythewood and Sanaa Lathan as 'Monica' on set of Love and Basketball (2000)

'Overcoming No' Hollywood Director Gina Prince-Bythewood Speaks To TBB At BFI For Love Film Festival

It's not often that the opportunity comes along to spend time with a genuine Hollywood film maker. So, when TBB got the chance to interview Writer-Director Gina Prince-Bythewood at the British Film Institute as part of their 2015 October-to-December Love Season, it was a no-brainer! Prince-Bythewood has been professionally active since ...

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Dean Leon Anderson

Award Winning Short Film Director, Dean Leon Anderson Speaks to TBB's Albert Yanney About His Career Journey

Born and raised in the capital, Dean Leon Anderson is an emerging director and screenwriter. A multi-talented young man, Anderson graduated from the University of Greenwich and was fortunate to secure a role at MTV Networks Europe soon after; working across various MTV platforms. Having gained invaluable experience at MTV, Dean moved ...

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Nina Baden-Semper

Nina Baden-Semper is a British actress of Trinidadian descent, best known for her role as Barbie Reynolds in the controversial sit-com of the 1970s, Love Thy Neighbour for Thames Television. In an acting career that spans more than forty years, Nina Baden-Semper has appeared in numerous radio, television, film and theatre ...

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Hip-Hop Artist Akala to Give FutureBook Keynote…Friday 4th December 2015

akala_keynote_booksellerBAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip-hop artist, writer/poet and historian Akala is to give a keynote address at the FutureBook Conference (4th December).

Akala will follow Annette Thomas, Susan Jurevics, and Stephen Page as the fourth morning keynote at what promises to be a ground-breaking publishing conference that will challenge delegates to re-imagine publishing in a broader digital and social context.

Akala is a label owner and social entrepreneur who fuses unique rap/rock/electro-punk sound with fierce lyrical storytelling. In 2009, Akala launched the ‘The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company’, which reinterprets the bard for a modern audience. Akala has also featured on numerous TV programmes across Channel 4, ITV2, MTV, Sky Arts and the BBC promoting his music, poetry as well as speaking on wide ranging subjects from music, youth engagement, British/African-Caribbean culture and the arts as a whole. He has also published a book of short stories, a graphic novel, and is currently working on an audiobook project, A Conversation to Freedom.

Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller and programme director for FutureBook 2015, said: “I’m stunned that Akala has agreed to keynote at this year’s conference: Akala is a musician, writer, poet and publisher. His approach has been driven by a unique understanding of the way his audience wants to interact with him: he is the embodiment of new kind of storytelling not limited by format and amplified by the digital era. It will be an exceptional and uplifting conclusion to the morning keynotes, and a remarkable start to the conference. I am particularly grateful to Crystal Mahey-Morgan for her introduction to Akala, as well as to Akala’s management team for carving out a space in his diary during his UK tour.”

Akala said: “It’s a really exciting time for artists. The nature of the internet has given a lot of artists the opportunity they never had before—I could never have built my career like I have 10 years ago. The internet changed everything, but it also means that Apple now sells 75% of all the music sold on planet earth, because they saw and understood the digital wave in a way music publishers did not… My mother treated the word can’t as a swear word: when I think about doing something I don’t feel daunted by the prospect of failure, I just get on and do it, but with respect for the form.”

Find out more about the event: http://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/2015/speakers

Find out more about Hip-Hop Shakespeare: http://www.hiphopshakespeare.com/site/



TBB’s @DescantDeb Opines: An Interesting Take on Race and Romance at the 2015 BFI Love Season

bfi_love2015 has seen the British Film Institute (BFI) take very real steps to redress the imbalance of audience exposure to the untold stories and unheard story tellers which, contrary to mainstream belief (and as TBB can attest), actually exist in great numbers within the British film industry.  Arrangements were unveiled at the 2015 London Film Festival (LFF) Diversity Forum last month under the oft repeated sentiments, ‘recognising the quality of difference’ and, turning, ‘tick boxes’ into ‘standards’ of practice.

As the LFF gave way to the BFI’s winter season celebrating Love (October-December), they flew African-American writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood over to participate in Q&As after back-to-back screenings of her two modern love stories – ‘Love and Basketball’ (2000) and ‘Beyond The Lights’ (2014) – both of which feature romantic leads of African descent. We were delighted! We attended! [Click here to read TBB’s interview with GPB]

We were even more intrigued when we heard that the BFI’s Marcus Prince would be hosting a 90 minute discussion called Race and Romance on TV, provocatively promising that the distinguished panel would investigate/discuss,    “… how TV has represented BAME relationships over the years, from the ‘radical’ plays of the 60s that aimed to break taboos, right up to the present day. We pose questions such as where is the black-led ‘romantic’ primetime series? And is TV guilty of turning romance into a white middle-class affair? Our distinguished panel will discuss these important issues and how TV might address them in future.”

It was a great panel, chaired by BBC Radio 4 ‘Front Row’ presenter Samira Ahmed, and included actor Adrian Lester, actor Art Malik, writer-director Gurinder Chadha and BBC Head of Drama Hilary Salmon. Opening comments were invited on the process of thinking about on-screen romance with the race element.

First and foremost, Chadha admitted that she thinks only of writing a love story first and then considers how much more interesting it would be to be culturally enriching, especially in the context of cross-cultural characters. Lester felt that it was tricky. He admitted that on graduating drama school, he thought he would just be a good actor and didn’t foresee becoming part of a social commentary. That said, he felt it was important to be objective about oneself, to imagine what someone else is going to ‘see’ and to develop that third eye through which to add to the conversation. Malik agreed with Lester, since, ‘romance is just romance’. He felt that it becomes important to discuss race within relationships, but felt, quite strongly, that TV isn’t really needed to inform us (society) about how advanced we are, especially since Britain has the highest percentage of mixed race children, certainly in Europe. Salmon found joy in being able to tell stories not seen or heard before. Having co-produced ‘Babyfather’ in 2001, she felt that at that time, there were lots of 30-something dramas – none of which were set in the black community.

With opening comments aired, the evening settled into the format of showing archived clips from TV shows past and future leading comments and questions from the panel. The first clip from Peter Morley’s 1964 Documentary ‘Black Marries White: The Last Barrier’ alternated between a priest’s speech at a wedding, and a blues featuring mixed couples dancing, singing along to old soul classics and occasionally smooching. All featured couples appeared to be black males, white women. The documentary was one of the first to have the subjects present their own stories, ‘reality’ style.
Next, came 1964’s 2nd episode of ‘Emergency Ward 10′ (ITV) and the beautiful Jamaican-born Joan Hooley as Dr. Louise Mahler. About to embark on a relationship with white Dr Giles Farmer (John White), she delights him by allowing him to kiss her. In her own words, she said “My part suddenly evaporated and Dr Mahler was sent back to Africa on a holiday where she was bitten by a snake and died.” She also admitted that the media furore hit her self-esteem quite hard.

Actress, Joan Hooley in her character role as Dr. Louise Mahler in ITV's 'Emergency Ward 10' (1957 - 67) Image courtesy of BFI website

Actress, Joan Hooley in her character role as Dr. Louise Mahler in ITV’s ‘Emergency Ward 10′
(1957 – 67)
Image courtesy of BFI website

Then, came the scene the BFI recently dubbed the first televised inter-racial kiss in Barry Reckord’s 1962 ITV Play of The Week ‘You In Your Small Corner’, originally staged at The Royal Court Theatre. The couple? Middle-classed Jamaican Dave (Lloyd Reckord) in England to attend Cambridge University, and working class factory worker Terry (Elizabeth MacLennan). In fact, even more recently discovered is a picture of Reckord’s Jamaican Sonny Lincoln in another interracial kiss with Andrée Melly’s Kathie Palmer from Ted Willis’ 55 minute 1959 ITV -Armchair Theatre teleplay ‘Hot Summer Night’ – an ‘intense drama about the impact of a black-white relationship on a family… When the daughter of a trade union organiser announces her relationship with a black man, the revelation exposes deep prejudice and hidden conflicts in her family’. [1]). It had premiered on stage in 1958 and was later remade as Roy Ward Baker’s feature film ‘Flame in the Street’ (1961). Interestingly, the Progressive Players Gateshead (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne) staged it in 1964 with white actor Sid Nichols in black face as Sonny.

Lester immediately said that for every clip just played, there were at least 10 which validated prejudice. Malik found it slightly terrifying to be taken back to that time which was ‘not fun’. Chadha was optimistic, saying that the critical acclaim and popularity of kitchen-sink dramas of that time made it easier to then explore class and race. Though, she conceded that it was the norm to ask the white actress if she was OK with having to kiss/be kissed by a black actor… Salmon agreed that A Taste of Honey, 1958, depicting Jo (Frances Cuka) in a romantic relationship with ‘The Boy’ Jimmy (Jamaican, Clifton Jones [David Kano in Space: 1999, 1975]), who has to leave her unknowingly pregnant as his ship sets sail, was hugely inspirational. She found You In Your Small Corner intense and provocative and would have been proud to have produced it.

Ahmed moved the conversation along to ask Malik’s view of romance in a political context, since he starred as Hari Kumar in ‘The Jewel In The Crown’ (1984). She admitted she found it difficult to continue to watch thereafter, and really wanted to know what became of Hari and Daphne’s romance. On seeing the clip of his first kiss with Daphne Manners (Susan Wooldridge) and his subsequent torture, he affirmed that this was Paul Scott’s apology for 200 years of imperial rule and atrocities. [Where is ours? I thought to myself…] Chadha felt that it was a distressing and very subversive piece, casting Merrick as the villain and Hari simply disappearing from the story the way he did.

Next came two more contemporary dramas – Horace Orvé’s 1987 TV film comedy ‘Playing Away’ (screenplay Caryl Phillips), described as ‘a gentle comedy of manners and unexpected reversal of white and black stereotypes,’ when the Caribbean Brixton Conquistadors travel North into Suffolk for a charity match in aid of the Sneddington Village Third World Week. A New York Times reviewer called it “witty and wise without being seriously disturbing for a minute”, which is interesting, since the clip chosen was a tense one involving Yvette, a young black woman (Suzette Llewellyn), in a car with 3 white men, a couple of whom threaten to gang rape her! What an extraordinary choice! There was nothing romantic about the clip or, from what I gather, that ensuing storyline! This was followed by a masturbating scene between Karim Amir (Naveen Andrews) – himself a mixed race teen – and Charlie Kay (Steven Mackintosh) from 1993 serial ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’. Chadha assured the audience that Playing Away was indeed a delightful comedy. Other than that, neither clip added much to the conversation, except that Salmon said that Buddha was hugely inclusive at the time, with a lot of elements that would broadly resonate, such as Karim being a suburbanite and a big Bowie fan, as well as those less mainstream characteristics – being Asian and gay.

(l-r) Cast of BBC series 'Small Island' Ruth Wilson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ashley Walters, David Oyelowo, Naomie Harris

(l-r) Cast of BBC series ‘Small Island’
Ruth Wilson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ashley Walters, David Oyelowo, Naomie Harris

Chadha went on to say that when a black film making team is given the chance at producing work, we tend to throw everything in there – all the issues, every theme, Because we just don’t believe we will ever be given the chance again.

Lester said the ’80s was a time of 3D characters exploring what made a country tense about race. He reflected on a particular job where the character list gave name, age, occupation, and a brief paragraph of character motivation, until it got to his character - ‘Phillip, 19, black.’ There was nothing else to inform the casting, so the director simply mined what he could from stereotypes because ‘skin colour was the character!’ He longed for the day when the term ‘colour-blind casting’ is replaced with ‘historically accurate’, since especially England’s port towns (Bristol, Liverpool, London) have centuries of proof of being multi-racial societies and all that that entails. He longed for the day when a white actor wearing black face is a true reflection of ‘artistic expression or experimentation,’ rather than ‘an act of exclusion.’ Malik thought change takes time, but in the meantime, why bother with arguments about the first non-white or female James Bond or Dr Who? Couldn’t we just have another hero written that way? He was looking forward to Chadha’s forthcoming TV film ‘The Viceroy House’, which would be something we won’t have seen before – a Raj drama in which the extras from The Jewel In The Crown are now the main players! The Viceroy House is currently in post-production.

Next, came a clip from Salmon’s modern drama Babyfather (2001) in which Linvall (Fraser James) discusses becoming a man, with his baby mother; and period drama ‘Small Island’ (2009) in which Hortense Roberts (Naomie Harris) propositions Gilbert Joseph (David Oyelowo) as part of a plant to get to London, where they eventually fall in love. Salmon produced Babyfather rather ‘opportunistically’ after having Patrick Augustus’ book stuck in development for a long time. They were on the verge of dropping it, when Greg Dyke took over the BBC and made his ‘BBC is hideously white speech’ on Scottish radio [2]. Babyfather was green-lit immediately, and Salmon was proud that, because it was a black majority cast, set well within the black community, race wasn’t an issue. All of the main players problems were everybody’s problems. She reflected that one producer assured her that she ‘wouldn’t be able to cast it,’ because, ‘there weren’t enough good black actors’ to fill the roles. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t give up his name, but she did say, somewhat smugly, that they actually had multiple, good choices for each character, and she hopes that the production went some way to change the perception about black actors’ ability and availability. Of Small Island, it was pointed out that what made it particularly compelling to watch was the political interplay and arrangements between the sexes to get to England.

Oliver (Mo Sesay) and Hashida (Sarita Khajuria) in 'Bhaji on the Beach' (1993)

Oliver (Mo Sesay) and Hashida (Sarita Khajuria) in ‘Bhaji on the Beach’ (1993)

Next, came three clips from Chadha’s portfolio. From ‘Bhaji On The Beach’ (1993), we watched a tender scene between Oliver (Mo Sesay) and Hashida (Sarita Khajuria) in which they discuss togetherness in the face of the challenges to come. A still horrified Chadha reflected on an old school friend’s reaction to their kiss at a BFI screening, exclaiming, “Ugh! How could she do that!??” Paul Gilroy (1987’s There Ain’t No Black In The Union Jack) was sat just behind her! Of course, ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ (2000) and ‘Bride and Prejudice’ (2004) followed. In reaction to Ahmed’s introduction of the three as examples of her work being ‘full of warmth’ with ‘so much heart,’ Chadha admitted that it just wasn’t very nice ‘constantly being defined by others’ and constantly, ‘trying to defy others’ definition’ of you. So in her works, she attempts to take her ethnic characters out of that ‘problematic’ prism and take them the other way, to end in positivity, joy and redemption. She said that a black-Asian romance had not been tackled before and she based the story on an Indian friend’s experiences when she married a Jamaican man and, ‘all hell broke loose’. In actual fact, Denzel Washington’s Demetrius romanced Sarita Choudhury’s Mina in Mira Nair’s ‘Mississippi Masala’ in 1991.

Then, we were treated to the fantastic Mr Lester in action – clips as Danny in TV movie ‘Storm Damage’ (1999) – an ex-teacher who begins an affair with a co-worker at the children’s home he takes a job in; Richard in TV movie ‘Sleep With Me’ (2009) – a man who becomes involved with the mysterious Sylvie who is also becomes involved with his partner Leila; Jimmy in film ‘Born Romantic’ (2000) – a taxi driver dealing with a lost love; Pete in film ‘Scenes of A Sexual Nature’ (2006) navigating through an amicable divorce from a woman he still cares for; and Bobby in the TV movie of theatre play ‘Company’ (1995) – a single man unable to commit fully to any of his 3 girlfriends and the five married couples who are his best friends. Personally I wasn’t too convinced that these scenes particularly screamed ‘romance’, still, Ahmed asked if playing Rosalind in Cheek-By-Jowl’s all-male production of ‘As You Like It’ early on in his career (1991) had influenced his playing of love scenes. He admitted that it had – Rosalind had increased his perceived versatility, and he has since always hoped to be a chameleon and not be constrained. It also seemed to herald his mounting one kind of barrier or another – the first black Bobby (Company, 1995), the first black Hamlet cast by the RSC (2000).

Ahmed asked Malik of his approach to the playing of romance. Malik felt that the starting point must always be the script, the story, the scene. That the aim becomes trying to be present and get the scene right on the day, living in the moment between “ACTION!” and “CUT!” As far as love scenes and nudity goes, the joy in doing them is having a director who won’t make it the worst day of your life! Lester wholeheartedly agreed, adding that such scenes are easiest when totally choreographed as a piece of dance. Improvisation usually ends in disaster.
We were then treated to a preview of ‘Undercover’ – a forthcoming 2016 drama produced by Salmon and starring Lester opposite Sophie Okonedo. Peter Moffat wanted to write for Okonedo and became fascinated with the true life story of the undercover detectives who lived false lives as their false UC personas for years. Lester’s Nick is an undercover cop, twenty years married to Okonedo’s Maya, who is about to become the first black female Director of Public Prosecutions. They have children, but Nick has entered the marriage AS a deep undercover operative because of Maya’s activist past… It is as much an examination of a marriage as a thriller, and was given generous media coverage before shooting over the summer as a BBC rarity of featuring two black actors in the lead roles.

Hamza Jeetooa as 'Nazir' in BBC series 'My Jihad'

Hamza Jeetooa as ‘Nazir’ in BBC series ‘My Jihad’

The formatted part of the evening ended with a brief discussion of a clip from Shakeel Ahmed’s ‘My Jihad’ – a 2014 4-part muslim romcom and one of those unique, singular voices that Salmon appears drawn to.
For the remaining 10 minutes or so, the panel was open to questions from the audience. I am only going to discuss one – that from a beautiful, dark-skinned black woman who asked where the black women were in this discussion? From the synopsis – “… how TV has represented BAME relationships over the years… We pose questions such as where is the black-led ‘romantic’ primetime series? And is TV guilty of turning romance into a white middle-class affair?…” she had, perhaps understandably, booked her ticket with the expectation of a very different discussion of race and relationships. The only reference to considering mixed relationships was as a starting point “… from the ‘radical’ plays of the 60s that aimed to break taboos…”

If an exclusive look at mixed relationships was the aim, why not just say so? It is disconcerting in the extreme to be promised one thing and (sort of) receive another. WHY include those particular selections from Babyfather, Small Island, Undercover and My Jihad? The main relationships were/are not mixed. WHY include that dreadful gang-rape-threatening clip from Playing Away? If cross-cultural relationships was the aim, the night of passion between Michael and Queenie / Queenie having a black baby and begging Hortense and Gilbert to raise him in Small Island was of relevance. In regards to black women, only Louise Mahler’s clip from Emergency Ward 10 should have been included – Queenie’s story was not shown, and Mahler’s role was not discussed. In fact, Mahler actress Joan Hooley’s story should have been a great place to start. Because, of all of the mixed relationship clips presented, none of the actors actively suffered a career backlash – not like Hooley did. As it was, it barely inspired a comment from the panel.

This, unfortunately, dampened a great evening with a charismatic panel for me and a lot of other black women in the audience. The charisma of the panel still did not disguise the interesting fact that the voice of actresses in the TV depiction of romance were excluded. With the exception of characters Giles Farmer in 1962 (John White), Karim Amir in 1983 (Naveen Andrews) and Oliver in 1993 (Mo Sesay), and in this conversation, white women were constantly held up as the prize for which all of the difficulties of mixed race romances were worth enduring… and BAME men were the ones willing to endure. I exclude Lester’s Nick (2016) because, as a deep undercover policeman, his motivation for being in his marriage won’t become clear to an audience until the drama is aired.

Yet again, we were overlooked, as we have been in the context of romance on-screen for years. Is the BFI truly saying that in 100 years of film and television, there was only one example of a black woman depicted in a mixed relationship dating back 51 years? If it is so, surely this was worth including in any frank discussion, exploring if this is, in fact, the last taboo. That black women – especially medium-to-dark-skinned black women, in occupying a place so far removed from Western standards of beauty, are just not considered as viable, watchable, enjoyable romantic leads. If this is not so, this was a serious, disappointing oversight. It is one of the short-comings of the use of over-arching terms like ‘diverse’ and ‘BAME’. Black rarely includes the female variety in a capacity that’s equivalent to the others. This discussion just felt filtered through a very ‘white’ lens…

That said, I was delighted to learn that, there will be a rare screening of the full drama You In Your Small Corner at BFI Southbank on Sunday 13 December 2015 at 14.00. Particularly worth seeing is another hugely powerful scene shown after ‘the kiss’ as Dave’s mother tries to convince him to give up working class Terry in heading for Cambridge. He refuses. She says that he would never date from the lower class back home. He admits it to be true, but that it took a beautiful white face to show him his own bigotry. His mother is beside herself and refuses to accept what he intends to do, ranting that if he looks out there on London’s streets, what it is he will see “… the best of us with the worst of them… our highly educated men with ignorant white women… our beautiful young men with their old, ugly white women… our high-born men with their low-born…, It’s the slave in us… because when we bid for them, we bid low…” Forgive my slight paraphrasing of this fantastic monologue, written by Reckord’s brother and based on his own real-life experiences. Interestingly, this clip inspired only Salmon’s comment of the drama being ‘provocative’ and ‘intense’.

For more information on the BFI Love Season, visit:  http://www.bfi.org.uk/love
For TBB’s epic discussion on black women on-screen in science fiction and fantasy, read here [Parts 1,2,3,4]


[1] http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/1134115/index.html

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/1104305.stm

article for the british blacklist by  @DescantDeb

TBB’s Nora Denis Reflects on Web Series ‘Wedding Dates’ by Daniel Rusteau & BWNG TV

(l-r) Stars of web series, 'Wedding Dates' Daniel Rusteau as 'Sean' &  Chinwe A.Nwokolo as 'Jamie'

(l-r) Stars of web series, ‘Wedding Dates’ Daniel Rusteau as ‘Sean’ & Chinwe A.Nwokolo as ‘Jamie’

The web series, Wedding Dates, commissioned earlier this year by BWNG TV, is set to return for a second season. This upcoming instalment inspired us at TBB to refresh our memories and take look at back at season one.

Created by Daniel Rusteau, a familiar face on BWNG TV (Brothers With No Game [Season Two], Blighty: BFF), the series follows a young couple who have been together more than 10 years. We meet them as they’re wrapping up yet another lacklustre date. The recently engaged duo, Jamie (Chinwe A.Nwokolo) and Sean (Rusteau), both feel that their relationship has dulled over the years and with their oncoming wedding, the idea that they might have missed out on a vital adult experience becomes ever-more pervasive. That experience?… You ask… dating of course.

After an awkward but brief chat, Jamie and Sean come to an agreement: they are both allowed to go on dates ‘as long as they don’t break the rules and promise not to try and make one another jealous’.

Throughout the six episodes we watch as Jamie and Sean find themselves in all manner of outrageous, ridiculous and sometimes tense situations. In their quest to recreate the vitality and excitement of newfound love they unearth many difficult questions, including what does commitment really mean in the 21st century? And whether monogamy should continue to be upheld as the most desired relationship model.

‘Wedding Dates’ is unique in its approach to portraying the infamous “Black Love”. Taking the lesser-travelled path of casual, quirky with helping of geeky, viewers are treated to an ordinary couple that most of us can actually relate to and recognise. All too often hyper-masculinity is presented as the default representation for black men in relationships, in Wedding Dates the abandonment of this stereotype makes room for a more relaxed character who isn’t out to prove anything. The result is that the programme is able to trek uncharted territory and provide a fresh outlook of romantic and platonic relationships that is additionally not exclusive to a single ethnicity/culture.

Supporting actors Dawn Melissa Green, who plays Charlie, and Mark Ota (Wayne), do a wonderful job in adding a layer to the series that allows the audience to see an alternate perspective. Like the viewers, they are curious to find out if their friends experiment will turn out to be the disaster they’re anticipating, or the spark that will reignite the passion in their relationship.

Season one ending on an uneasy note has had the effect of making season two difficult to predict. We ask Rusteau what he has in store for the coming instalment, his response:

“In season 2 of ‘Wedding Dates’ we’re going to really push even further. For me ‘Wedding Dates’, outside of the pop culture references and the witty back and forth style, is a serious look at relationships in the 21st century and how they work and whether they can work. […] Without giving too much away, we really wanted to ask the question: could you let someone you’re seeing go on a date with someone else? Now we’re going to ask some deeper questions like: could you let them do other stuff? What does it mean if you love someone but you’re sexual attraction for them has diminished? How can you fix that? Does it mean you don’t love them any more? Does it mean you should try something new? So, we’re really going to start upping the levels on that front.”

The series itself is very in-tune with modern trends. Marriage/long-term commitment is a topic that is regularly debated and with good reason too. Who we love and how we love is evolving quickly and dramatically, so perhaps it is about time we challenged ourselves and thought a bit more profoundly about what relationship model (personally) presents the most promising outcome in this brave new world.

Catch up with the Wedding Dates series below

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

Idris Elba Joins Jonathan Ross’ Guest Lineup on ITV, Tonight @ 10.45pm

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

Idris Elba will join Jonathan Ross on this show to speak about family life, his award winning films and DJing for Madonna on this Saturday’s show.

He will be joined by guests, king of nature documentaries Sir David Attenborough, Live Tyler – actress and daughter of rock legend Steve Tyler, and comedian/presenter Keith Lemon.

Award winning actor, Idris Elba is internationally renowned for his memorable role as Stringer Bell in critically acclaimed American drama, The Wire and for his performance as Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. He has also won a Golden Globe for his lead role in the BBC drama, Luther.  The actor will be speaking to Ross about becoming a father for the second time to 19 month old son, Winston and how he balances family life with filming all around the world.

He’ll also discuss his latest film, the Netflix blockbuster ‘Beasts of No Nation’ which he describes as being particularly difficult one to make, and about the fact he almost lost his life whilst filming a critical scene in his homeland Ghana.

Idris is also well known for being a DJ and discusses how he ended up DJing for Madonna and why DJing, Idris brings him back down to Earth after the dizzying heights of acting.

There will also be revelations about his popular character ‘DCI John Luther’ in the popular BBC cop thriller series, Luther…

Catch the Jonathan Ross Show tonight Saturday 28th November on ITV @ 10:45pm

TBB Reviews ‘The Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution’ Documentary Screening Hosted by Kush Films Boutique

BlackPanthers_Quad1 (1)Kush films continued their new monthly ‘film boutique’ events with an extra special screening of ‘The Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution’, the documentary which traces the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party.

Walking into the Regent Street cinema was a huge joy, the event was billed as a theme night and the audience didn’t disappoint. Everyone was decked out in the iconic black leather, dark-glasses and black gloved fist look synonymous with the Black Panther Party and the movement they created in 1960s America. Afro’s (real and fake), long boots, head wraps and berets were everywhere as Public Enemy’s infamous justice theme song ‘Fight The Power’ blared from the speakers controlled by legendary DJ, Ronnie Herel.

This film was obviously eagerly anticipated, the audience packed out the cinema. The first mass crowd reaction was a loud groan when it was announced that the film would be 2 hours long, but by the end we all agreed that 2 hours was not long enough to tell the story of arguably the greatest organisation created in the response to the struggle of racial injustice and the development of black people in the USA, if not the world.

During the first half we learned about the first leaders, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, and Bobby Seale via a fellow founder Elbert ‘Big Man’ Howard and lesser known members; those in the background who fought with them, marched the streets armed with rifles, built the after school programs and free clinics which helped to shape the community and have lived to tell the tale. Listening to them you still get a sense of happiness and pride in their tone as they relived what it was like to be a Black Panther and what that whole period meant for African Americans.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was built in 1966 as a response to police brutality in Oakland California. After the assassination of Malcolm X the Panthers were committed to continuing the ‘By any means necessary’ modus operandi. The call to revolution was so strong back then that people left their jobs to sign up, some en route to college, heard about the rise of the party and turned around, others had suffered at the hands of police brutality and were just fed up. My mind immediately jumped to the present day and the #BlackLivesMatter movement currently taking shape in America in response to the same problem. Its amazing how eerily similar all the tragic stories of lives lost at the hands of the police were and how I could compare them to those who have died in the last few years.

Actor, Charles 'Chucky' Venn @ Kush Films Boutique Black Panther screening.

Actor, Charles ‘Chucky’ Venn @ Kush Films Boutique Black Panther screening.

It is remarkable that Stanley Nelson was able to summon such a stellar group of participants for this project. The archive footage was invaluable to tell the story but without the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it, this wouldn’t have been as enthralling. We even heard from a police officer who recalled trying to speak to a 4yr old in the community who promptly told him to ‘fuck off’ –  cue rapturous laughter from the audience. Sound bites like that are what made this a brilliant watch as were poignant scenes of a mother with baby in one hand and a gun in the other.

In the beginning the Black Panthers were not seen as a direct threat to authority, a turning point was when the illustrator for the Black Panther newspaper depicted the police as a walking pig with the caption ‘support your local police’. Then the chant “off the pigs” started by the Panthers during protest marches reached white college students. Another fact which often goes unnoticed, was that by the end of their reign, the majority of the party were women and they had to make a stand for feminism, even back then. The party had a chauvinistic tone, with the women not being trusted to take on any revolutionary or militant acts so they demanded a switch in roles. The men made breakfast and controlled the free clinics while the women worked and held the guns. Sadly, the misogyny was never overcome, the roles soon switched back. One female Panther exclaimed “the men were not from revolutionary heaven”.

The death of Martin Luther king was a pivotal moment for the Panthers, this was when Eldridge Cleaver broke ranks and retaliated against the police with an ambush with ended in the brutal slaying of of 17yr old Bobby Hutton, one of the first members to be executed by the police. The full story was told by Elbert ‘Big Man’ Howard who says he spoke to Bobby before he left, gave him a gun and sent him out to battle. He still feels guilty to this day. From there the demise of the party is charted in great detail… The Bobby Seale saga which led to him being bound and gagged in court before being sentence to jail for 4 years for contempt. The incarceration of Huey Newton; Eldridge Cleaver fleeing to Algeria.

The main catalyst for the fall of the party was the then head of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover. I had heard and read about his involvement but did not realise how ruthless the FBI were in ensuring that the Panthers did not succeed in their quest for for human liberation, which was the ethos of the party – not just equality for black people. If you imagine that the Black Panthers were considered the No 1 security risk in the USA during the Vietnam war. They had factions all over the USA by that time,  but exact numbers were unknown, so the police over exaggerated and feared them. The full police force was under orders to extinguish the group completely via an operation called Cointelpro formed to neutralise ‘hate groups’ meaning jail, recruitment as informants or death. They could do whatever they wanted to bring them down. This brings me back to the present day and the current attempts to paint the #BlackLivesMatter movement as a hate group. I think about Sandra Bland, how she spoke out against police brutality and was then targeted, arrested and ended up dead in a jail cell. I see an awful pattern of systematic injustice forming. A national all out assault was launched and the Panthers had no resources to fight back.

Some of the tactics were outrageous, the police resorted to telling wives their husbands were cheating on them to breakdown the families from within. We heard this directly from Panthers who were FBI informants. The term ‘Panther pads’ was created, houses for the men who had to leave their families due to FBI interference, they effectively created a new community.

“You can jail the revolutionaries but You can’t jail the revolution” – Fred Hampton

Black Panthers on parade at Free Huey rally in Defermery Park, Oakland, July 28, 1968. Photo courtesy of Stephen Shames.

Black Panthers on parade at Free Huey rally in Defermery Park, Oakland, July 28, 1968. Photo courtesy of Stephen Shames.

One very important part of the documentary highlighted the racial unity created by the Panthers. The chant ‘All power to the people’ was a unifying call for all people of all races to unite against police brutality and they did attract diverse crowds of people in the streets defending their actions. A stark contrast to the racial divide in America today which is so fractured white people are paying the bail money of police officers who gun down unarmed black teenagers or people like George Zimmerman have been able to garner ridiculous amounts of support for his very public slaying of 17yr old Trayvon Martin.

The death of Fred Hampton was one of the most eye opening examples of blatant police corruption. Fred and his companions were asleep in a house which was ambushed by the police who claimed they shot first. The police used the line ‘they feared for their lives’ to justify the brutal slaying of 5 people. When police in the UK shot Mark Duggan they feared for their lives, when they shot John Charles de Menezes at a London Underground tube station, they feared for their lives, and every time we hear of another police shooting in America it is the test book excuse that is used. How is it possible that this one line can make murder at the hands of the police legal across the world? It is obvious that something has to be done but we are powerless to stop the police from killing us if they want to, and it seems that if we followed the example of the Black Panthers, and stuck to their original ethos we may actually have a chance to change things for good.

The FBI systematically destroyed the Party which could’ve been avoided if they simply trusted each other. Huey Newton & Eldridge Cleaver had public arguments, they even had verbal battles on live TV letting the entire world know that the party was fractured beyond repair. The Black Panther Party for Self defense split into half and then erupted into violence among themselves. Was this the beginning of the rival black gangs we see in operation now killing each other on the streets of America for no formidable reason? This documentary leaves you knowing exactly the direction the party were headed and longing for a different ending. It is scary to realise that the world as we know it would be completely different, especially for black people, if the Black Panthers had remained united.

A couple of days after watching this I watched the 1995 movie Panther. The movie was poor in comparison, devoid of any relevant or the most important content and did not tell the story of the Black Panther Party at all. It underpins the importance of documenting our history as it happens and ensuring we get to show the next generation what we went through so they don’t make the same mistakes.

To find out more about the documentary check out its website: http://theblackpanthers.com/home/

Kush Films will be hosting their monthly movie club at the Regent Street Cinema…





review by Marianne Miles / @MissMMiles for the british blacklist

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