On the fourth day of the riots, instead of feeling powerless after witnessing the destruction that was taking place and succumbing to the negative portrayal of ‘youths’ in the media, a group of young people from a production company called Fully Focused decided to get together and delve into what was happening.
They wanted to facilitate a deeper conversation as to how and why the riots started, and explore the possible solutions to the underlying problems.
Riot from Wrong, which is a compelling documentary, is the direct result of their efforts.
The story starts with the death of Mark Duggan on 4th August 2011, who was portrayed by mainstream media as a drug dealer and a gangster. However, this documentary paints another picture.
People from all walks of life were interviewed in the film, and a number of them said they believed that his character was deliberately smeared in a tactic that has been used time and time again.
Mark isn’t described as the heavenliest of angels, but he is portrayed by his family and friends as a “good man”, a “peacemaker” and as someone who never had a criminal record.
The film examines some of the ‘evidence’, which was used to justify police actions and incriminate Mark. The film quickly dispels a lot of the myths that were branded about at the time.
What was truly shocking to hear was that Mark’s family only found out about his death on the news. On.The.News!
His family and friends, who were understandably angry and upset, wanted to know what happened, and decided to go to the police station on 6th August to get some answers. But what started out as a peaceful protest spiralled out into disorder and violence, while the police just largely watched on.
At the time, I remember hearing that it all kicked off when a girl was beaten up by the police, but I remember reading that this was just a rumour. Well, this film shows this exact footage, and it would seem to me that this was more than ‘just a rumour’.
By using eyewitness accounts and original footage, interspersed with interviews from influential people, such as Michael Mansfield QC, right down to some of the rioters themselves, this documentary is a powerful record of what happened and why, and uncovers some of the things that mainstream media either missed or ignored. The film even uses a poem at one point to describe the events that unfolded over the days.
And as the audience is taken through the different London boroughs and parts of England, which were affected by the riots, we are shown how homes and businesses were destroyed, but then we also see how the community pulled together. We are told how disconnected and disengaged some people in our society feel. We are taught how young people, as a whole, were dehumanised during the riots and referred to as a pack of ‘feral thugs’, so that that there was no need to try and understand their grievances, because they are not one of ‘us’.
The complex and antagonizing relationship between the police and the community is explained in the film. Other themes, such as cuts to youth services and funds, access to education, bleak unemployment figures and materialism are also explored for all to see.
You can hear and feel people’s frustration, anger and pain in this evocative documentary. Yet this film isn’t just a demotivating, depressing picture of what happened, it also offers a ray of hope. It informs us of the work that various organisations are doing in the community. It reminds us that we can be a community.
None of the explanations served as a justification for the riots. Although the rioters themselves admitted to their actions and didn’t necessarily show remorse, absolutely no one condoned the burning of people’s homes.
What is really amazing about this documentary is that this no-budget film has been screened dozens of times, for free, up and down the country. It has even been shown to politicians in Parliament.
I went to a screening at London Metropolitan University last year and was blown away, not only by the contents of the documentary, but by the discussions that developed afterwards.
You can tell that the young people who made this documentary are passionate and enthusiastic about the subject area. You can feel people’s frustration, you can sympathise with those who lost their homes, their livelihoods and their family members.
This film pulls together, summaries and publicly airs what has been on people’s lips for years. And as my younger sister said, it was refreshing to get a different perspective of the riots, especially from ‘respectable’ “middle-aged white people”.
It’s been two years since the riots and the Fully Focused team are still going strong, which is a testament to the work that they are doing. It’s admirable that they are not allowing the discourse of the film’s themes to fade away.
This is a bloomin’ good documentary and I challenge you to watch it. It is more than a film – these guys have started a movement under the banner #UnityExpressionProgress.*
*You can buy a copy of the DVD for £9.99 by clicking here.