A film backed by taxpayers via Screen West Midlands may not be screened in Birmingham on the advice of West Midlands Police according to today’s Birmingham Post.
The movie ‘1 Day’, shot on the streets of Handsworth, looks at gang culture in the city and will go on general release next week, but a row has surfaced between filmmakers and the local police who believe the film glamorizes violence and could prove a provocative influence on local young people.
According to the paper, tensions reached boiling point last night when the director Penny Woolcock “claimed that Odeon, Cineworld and Vue cinemas had all been advised by West Midlands Police not to screen the movie in Birmingham”.
Of course there’s always the possibility that this is an elaborate publicity stunt, but the article does include some comment from the Assistant Chief Constable at WM Police who denied that there had been ‘official’ censorship seemingly indicating that there have indeed been some words of warning for local cinemas regarding the implications of showing '1 Day'. The Odeon on New Street confirmed it would not be showing the film on police advice.
No-one is condoning censorship here, and many would argue that the police are being pretty over zealous in this instance – not to mention muting the artistic freedoms of the creatives involved with the production – but putting such arguments to one side, we can clearly see that poor old muggins taxpayer has been dealt a poor hand again.
The WMTPA don’t know how much public funding this film received, but it’s fair to say '1 Day' is one of Screen WM’s most championed projects and takes pride of place on their website so it’s likely to be a significant amount, and yet it looks as though movie-goers in the city may not even have the chance to view it. What’s more, outside of the city it doesn’t sound as though it’ll be doing much to promote a positive image of Birmingham and entice people to the city – less Mike Whitby’s beloved “A Global City With A Local Heart”, and more “A Grubby City With A Gang Problem”.
Just throw in a few wide angle shots of Spaghetti Junction, intercut with a few other concrete delights and you have a recipe for a deterrent powerful enough to neutralise the combined PR machine of Birmingham City Council and Marketing Birmingham. And we’re paying for all three.
And, of course, we’re paying for police time as they have to busy themselves trying to prevent what they clearly fear would be an increase in gang related crime, inspired by a publically funded film. Sometimes it’s almost as though we’ve evolved too far…
Whatever your views on censorship, gun crime, or the image of Birmingham, it’s clear there’s been a fairly grave error of judgment on Screen WM’s part. Sometimes it seems very unclear in whose interest and to what ends they’re working – if there’s a strategy, a real end-game, what is it? Because they’re currently looking pretty aimless, pretty costly and – given this fiasco – pretty clueless when it comes to utilizing the big screen and the film industry to promote our region.