Violence in cinema or violence because of cinema?

Eve Ducker examines the controversial pulling of gang film Blue Story from cinemas.

Eve Ducker
28th November 2019

It’s 5:30pm on Saturday the 23rd of November; a 999 call has been made to Star City entertainment complex in Birmingham to report a macheteattack outside Vue cinema.

Blue Story director Andrew Onwubolu aka. Rapman (Centre). Image:Twitter@Rapman

This violent attack ended in the arrests of multiple people including several teenagers with the youngest being 13. The responsibility for this attack while lying solely on the perpetrators has resulted in the film Blue Story being pulled from Vue cinema chains on ‘grounds of safety’.

The film is described by the writer and director Rapman (Andrew Onwubolu) as a story about ‘love not violence’ and stems from Onwubolu’s YouTube series Shiro’s story, a three part YouTube series that has racked up millions of views.

Blue Story is however on a bigger scale and tells the story of two best friends forced apart by rival gangs in London and the differences in the postcodes they live in. Based on Onwubolu’s own experiences, while the story being told is fictious the gangs and reality of the lives lived in the film are very real, with his aim being to look past the statistics and see how ‘good kids’ can be led astray due to unavoidable facts of life for them.

This goal has now been choked with the withdrawal of the film from multiple cinema chains, and has instead sparked debate about where the blame lies for the 25 disturbances that Vue cinema has accounted to Blue Story.

This however isn’t the first example of films being blamed for violence in society we only have to look back this year at Joker, a film that was at the forefront of the debate about how violence on our screens filters down into everyday life. This isn’t a recent issue either; blaming the arts for violent acts is historic from John Hinckley Jr.’s assassination attempt being attributed to 1976’s Taxi Driver or beloved cartoon Tom and Jerry being criticised for its portrayal of violence to children.

The nature of the violence in Joker (2019) caused controversy this year. Image:IMDB

It is forgotten though that this kind of real-life violence is the thing that needs to be tackled not the films that are bringing it to the forefront of subject matter. The public seem to have a blinkered ability to show compassion; with children that are exposed to this kind of violence everyday being ignored but when it comes onto our screens its abhorrent.  

While it may seem difficult to face these issues pieces of art such as Blue Story are a key part of the discussion about gang violence by just deleting it, we achieve nothing. If the safety of customers were of paramount important to Vue they would be donating to charities or starting campaigns of their own to stop this kind of violence, rather than just move it away from their doors.

Despite this the decision has been made and the responsibility now lies with the public to show support for Blue Story and support for those affected by gang violence, as it is our reaction that will cement this film’s place in history hopefully not tarnished by the acts of a few.

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