Black art, and its association with marginalised communities and resistance, is embedded in the wider societal psyche as a threat.
On the evening of Saturday 24th November, whilst families were queuing up to see the new Frozen 2 film, a mass brawl broke out between predominantly South Asian teens in a Vue cinema in Birmingham - some of them had machetes, and at least seven officers were injured.
Vue swiftly took the decision to cancel Blue Story across its cinemas, leaving many people confused as to the link between the film and the brawl - the Police made no such link, reports have not indicated the teens were watching the film, those arrested were too young to do so.
Blue Story is a film that was both produced by, and features, predominantly Black artists. It tells a story about gang violence in London. It is not glamorising violence in the way of Peaky Blinders, or The Punisher. Gang violence is presented in gritty realism, a tale of caution, detailing the consequences of such a life.
So why is the film being penalised? Social media is outraged and is pointing to the obvious, and the hypocrisy stings.
When there was a mass shooting during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, or when a man was severely assaulted during a screening of Bohemian Rhapsody, White people were not blamed, the films themselves were not blamed, and at no point were the films banned.
This is not an isolated incident - the criminalisation of Black art has a long history from jazz to hip-hop, from grime to drill. Hip-hop lyrics have been used in court as evidence for criminal actions, a pleasure not bestowed upon any other music genre. The Met Police’s 696 Form - which required club promoters to detail the ethnicity of their clientele, and unfairly restricted grime DJs and events - was only removed last year by Sadiq Khan. Black art, and its association with marginalised communities and resistance, is embedded in the wider societal psyche as a threat.
Vue has clearly responded impulsively to an understandably frightening event. The criminal behaviour of the teens involved in the violence on Saturday has no link to Blue Story. It is unfair to penalise Andrew Onwubolu, the hardworking Black director and writer, especially when the film’s message was one of anti-violence. This could not only impact the film’s opening box office figures, but it could also prevent major companies from supporting other Black artists who want to tell similar stories of their own experiences.
At the time of writing, Odeon, Cineworld and Picturehouse are still screening Blue Story so catch it while you can.