November 25, 2019
Imagine this: you have worked all your life in the creative industries and you are finally getting your big break. People are watching your movie – they’re enjoying it – and you are on cloud nine with all the positive reviews rolling in. But within a split second, all of that is taken away from you. 
Pulling Blue Story From Cinemas Is An Attack On The Black Community
The release of Blue Story, a film that focuses on two young friends who become rivals in a street war, has been long-awaited and highly anticipated within the black community. It’s a source of great pride that its writer and director, Andrew Onwubolu, a rapper known as Rapman, is a black boy from London. With backing from Jay-Z, Paramount and the BBC, it was finally a coming of age story written for the black community by someone in a position to do so.
But one moment has risked changing all of that. 
On Saturday, seven police officers were injured after a brawl at the Vue cinema in Birmingham involving youths carrying machetes and knives. After the incident, the cinema franchise decided to pull Blue Story from all their cinemas because they believed the film incited violence and that those involved with the fight had been influenced by the film’s narrative.Related... The SPAC Nation Story Tells Us What Black People Already Knew About How The Media And Politicians Value Them The decision has sent shockwaves through the black community. Black twitter is in uproar – as they should be, because this film was for us. It was meant to abolish the stereotype that all black people form gangs and inflict violence and knife crime on to the community. It was meant to highlight the fact that positivity comes when you stop fighting each other and turn to love instead. It was an important piece of cinema at a time when London is facing a knife crime epidemic and should have been an important education for backward-minded people and their preconceptions of what black people are like. 
But with this incident, it has sent the black community and the cast and crew of this film 10 steps back. 
Vue has acted harshly. Rapman worked hard to bring his movie, that was adapted from his three-part YouTube series Shiro’s Story, into the mainstream. Vue has taken that chance away from him by now indirectly telling the world that this film wasn’t good enough for their cinema. Even more, this decision is saying that this film and the makers are dangerous, when the film was about “love not violence”, according to Rapman. 
Writing on Instagram, he added: “Sending love to all those involved in yesterday’s violence at Star City in Birmingham. It’s truly unfortunate that a small group of people can ruin things for everybody. I pray that we can all learn to live with love and treat each other with tolerance and respect.”
Following Vue’s decision, a second cinema chain Showcase has pulled the film from its 21 venues – a move police said wasn’t based on official advice.
In 2012, a mass shooting occurred in a cinema in Colorado, USA, as the film the Joker played. The suspect told the police he was “the Joker” and despite his heinous violence, no decision was made to remove that film worldwide.
By Vue and Showcase removing this movie, they are implicitly linking all black boys and black communities with crime – you could call it racial injustice.
The question arises: If this was a big-shot Hollywood film, would this happen? If it was a film based around gang violence in the white community, would this happen? The people involved in the incident in Birmingham were waiting to see Frozen II. So why wasn’t Frozen cancelled? Does it not receive the same treatment as Blue Story because it is about princesses?
Some have supported Vue in its decision to pull the film, saying Blue Story did show scenes of gang violence, but they’ve clearly missed the point. These scenes were powerful educative tools for why people fall into gangs, exposing the realities of the lives of black boys growing up in London. 
Regardless of what happened, it’s important to recognise this film as the success it was – it sold out in many cinemas, it told a complicated social story with sensitivity and empathy. Rapman should be proud of what he achieved. And hopefully, Vue and Showcase will recognise they’ve made the wrong decision.
Nikki Onafuye is a freelance journalist.Related... Vue Ban Film About London Gangs After Machete Violence At Birmingham Cinema Blue Story Banned From Second Cinema Chain After Brawl In Birmingham The SPAC Nation Story Tells Us What Black People Already Knew About How The Media And Politicians Value Them Church Fighting Knife Crime Fails To Act On Rogue Pastors Flourishing In Its Ranks
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