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Photographer: Alexander Piatti

Wow. What to say about this film? Most definitely one of the most important films to be released in 2013. Due out on the 29th March One Mile Away is an award winning documentary directed by Penny Woolcock that highlights the war of the ‘postcode’ between two Brummy gangs (that’s Birmingham to all you Southerners) who call themselves The Burger Bar Boys (B21) and the Johnson Crew (B6). One Mile Away was begun by Shabba – who has links to the Johnson side. Penny Woolcock became involved due to the trust she had built with both sides of the gangs – after her film about gun crime entitled ‘1 Day’. She introduced Shabba to Dylan Duffus – who was the lead actor of 1 Day and who also has affiliations with the Burger side.

So why is this documentary a must watch? It follows the story of two real life peacemakers starting their very own revolution. A revolution of the mind.

The war between both the gangs The Burger Bar Boys (B21) and the Johnson Crew (B6) is predominately a postcode war – with no real roots apart from pride.

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When a young man is quizzed on camera about what it is the gangs are fighting about he retaliates ‘I don’t even know you know!’. Another man states ‘it’s a shame I’m so used to people getting shot…’

This film documents the painful journey that Shabba and Dylan experience in their desire to make peace between the two gangs in order to improve the living conditions of their community. But the worry of getting ‘lighted up’ or in other words…killed and the suspicion from both sides is constantly at the forefront of their fight. Why are they trying to appease the war? Do they have an ulterior motive? Money? But Shabba and Dylan set out to prove that the building of trust between the gangs can be created with patience, determination and a lot (A LOT) of perseverance.

At one point the team visit diplomat Johnathan Powell – who was Downing Streets Chief of Staff under Tony Blair until 1997 for advice. One of Mr Powell’s responsibilities at the time of his service included the Northern Ireland peace talks. The point that he makes to the team about the government and the lack of help that they are currently providing to appease the conflicts between gangs is that ‘they’d like it to stop but they’re not going to invest in it so you’re gonna have to do it yourselves’. He hits the lads with the reality of what they are up against. They are out there on their own and there is no one at the top listening. Or if they are listening – they aren’t showing that they care. Mr Powell reiterates the importance of keeping faith and having patience.

This movie touches bravely on many topics – including the reality of the justice system (including witness intimidation), the reality of prison, the breakdown of the relationship between the police and the community, police brutality, racism, black on black crime, the power struggle of the streets and the death of innocent people. And the discussions captured between the generations highlight the many layers of how ‘the lost generation’ have become how they are. A lack of discipline? How to discipline? How this problem came to be this way?

One man states ‘You know nothing else since 13… it’s just normal. It’s life. It’s not even bad. When you don’t know nothing else’. Another man’s suggestion on how to change the problems is that young people should vest their interests in joining an academic gang. But then the distinct problem of ‘friendships’ that can get in the way of self help becomes apparent. And so this documentary highlights the many hurdles the team have to face. Just making peace.. is not so simple.

I asked a friend ‘JH’ whom I met at the Urban XFactor in South London his thoughts on the film as a young man who has had experience himself of serving time in prison..

From the perspective of an ex convict my view on the film itself is that of understanding and support towards the cause! I totally understand where Dylan Duffus “Flash” is coming from in regards to putting an end to the ongoing feud that has cost many people their lives which is very commendable. I also understand that from the point of view of someone looking in and not being involved or exposed to such lifestyles and environments it may seem like senseless killings and unnecessary extreme behaviour on the parts of the perpetrators. This would be a fair comment coming from a person that has had the opportunity to grow mentally and/or experience or have experienced another side of life  which one may call a more stable upbringing! Without this help or guidance whatever a person knows to be their reality that’s what they adapt to deal with and survive through in anticipation of not becoming a victim to their society themselves. In an area where the role models are career criminals with all the flash items and belongings it’s hard “but not impossible” for a person to rise up and not succumb to following in the footsteps of the ones they idolise and look up to for answers! With all of that being said on top of all of the environmental strains being a young black male myself I have to state that life for us seems even more challenging especially when the topic of prejudice and race comes into the equation! It’s added pressure when the system that’s put in place to protect and serve have an already built up guard against a person just because they may fit the demographic of a usual suspect!

So.. many many many reasons to watch this film. Get educated – stand up be counted – let’s work together for change! It’s out on the 29th March… Don’t miss it. Get involved…! View the trailer HERE:

And most importantly – whatever it is you are trying to do – don’t give up – keep dreaming – be patient – if you want to escape the trap you’re in – you can do it…

You can see the film as part of Birmingham’s Flatpack Festival on 26th March… see more screening dates on the One Mile Away site HERE

Pledge money to get the film talked about in schools HERE

Follow the film @onemileawayuk

Becki Bx

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