Saturday, 14 March 2009

Freedomland Film

I stayed up late to witness what happened either way but it looked as if the worst was not to happen. I watched a film I had seen only last year or the year before in theatre. It is a strange, difficult to watch film, Freedomland because it attempts to marry two subjects, the more meeting a single minded film. A woman claims to have been car jacked and assaulted, and that the her attacker had gone off with her pre school son asleep on the back seat. But did the event happen and if it did, did it happen in the way the woman alleges? The concept is based on a true incident. To add a second dimension the film deal with the woman's allegation that the man involved was black, in the situation of a white town where the blacks live in inadequate flats on the other side of town, The film explores the impact of the police focusing their attention on this ghetto. The extra dimension which gives the film its special quality is that the police call on the help of an organisation which helps mother's cope and come to terms with the loss/disappearance of a child. Such an organisation also exists in the USA and helped to add authenticity to what is a fictitious story. I do not what to give away what is the core subject of the film but I felt that that the emphasis on the issue of institutional racism in the police force and the development of ghetto living took away from what is an important subject on its own.

I was more convinced by the decision to use, at one point, a derelict building which had been an institution of children , some of whom had been abused, abducted or gone missing. The film takes it title from this real building, once a centre of indentured workers, the way the American and British got around slavery for 100 years after it was theoretically abolished. The building is used as a catalyst for the truth of what happened to be admitted to, although the truth of what happened to many children in care is still buried, for good and bad reasons.

Before watching Freedomland I had viewed an interesting documentary film about an established Asian actor born and raised in Manchester whose father had come from a West Indian Island, a former British Colony, and whose father had been an Indian who had signed his life away for five years as an indentured worker on a sugar plantation. India had not only produced cloth but had developed a clothing industry, until the decision was taken to make Manchester and the North West the main clothing making centre for the Empire. The grandfather had been forced to leave his wife and extended family in order to provide a livelihood for them, only to discover that for five years he was required to stay on the estate without holidays. He remained and his son prospered. However there was an underlying racial tension between the former black slaves and the Indian migrants which the British are said to have kept from boiling over until they granted independence after World War 2. Fearing that his commercial and social position would deteriorate his father had then migrated to the UK and of course found racial prejudice just as bad, probably worse than had been and was to be the situation in his former homeland.

Yesterday afternoon I had a siesta watching a predictable B movie staring Glenn Ford and a well known actress whose name I cannot remember called the Lady from Trinidad at time when it remained a British Colony, just after the second world war when former Nazi's were still hoping to regain power. The portrayal of a black servant and a dodgy Indian night club owner demonstrated just what the documentary had brought home.

Fortunately England has and is changing. I see the floods and their impact on people and the priorities of government and media as perhaps the final wake up call, just as the terrorist outrages heralded a time for change.

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