British Filmmaker Noel Clarke Talks Race and the UK Film Industry

Photo courtesy of The Guardian

Last week, I had the pleasure to meet and hear actor/director/writer Noel Clarke speak at my university.   He was open, honest and not afraid to discuss the imbalances in the UK film industry when it comes to featuring films with people of color, while also discussing the struggles that he faced in putting out his own first film Kidulthood, which tells the story of a group of kids growing up in West London. Before the panel, he shared with me that when he pitched the film to various studios, no one wanted to touch it because they did not think that anyone would want to watch a film with black characters–as if that audience either did not exist, or it was not powerful enough to garner a film that spoke to their reality.  After several years of seeking financing, Clarke finally put the film out himself and it later went on achieve great success, leading to his follow-up films Adulthood (which generated £1,209,319 opening weekend) and later  4, 3, 2, 1 which came out this year.

One of the things that came from the discussion was the topic of race–something that is not often discussed or addressed here, however someone like Clarke cannot reasonably tell his story without acknowledging it to some degree.  He mentioned during the discussion that he looked to Spike Lee and John Singleton for their contributions in telling the stories of people of color in film, but did not have anyone on this side of the pond to look up to because they simply did not exist.  The black community in the UK is alive and well. I only hope that Clarke can be inspiration to other filmmakers with valid stories to tell so that we can widen the playing field.  I, for one, would love to see more films that tell the stories of people of color throughout the Diaspora. I’m talking honest,  balanced stories that reach outside of hood-life realities and show how people are living across multiple economic levels.  We’re everywhere–from Sao Paulo to Berlin; Barcelona to Paris.  Let’s see it!

Check out the discussion at Goldsmiths last week.  The actual Q&A starts rolling at 20:22.

Here’s a scene from Kidulthood

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