WHAT'S NEW - Film and Real World Violence

Film and Real World Violence
By Vandana Thanki

The recent film, Blue Story, directed by Rapman (Andrew Onwubolu) and funded by BBC Films, narrates the tale of two friends from different parts of London, who become enemies in a violent postcode war.

The film sparked violence at a number of cinemas in the first 24 hours of it being released. During the opening night at Star City Multiplex in Birmingham, a group of youths, some brandashing machetes were involved in violence. The police reported that up to 100 teenagers were involved in the ‘major disorder’ and five teenagers were arrested in connection with the disturbance.

Vue Cinema decided to stop showing the film across their cinemas to prevent further incidents. This decision has provoked an angry response, with some, including Rapman, suggesting the ban is motivated by racism rather than safety. 

Vue has said their decision was, ‘not one taken lightly or without careful consideration of our experience across the country…During the first 24 hours of the film over 25 significant incidents were reported and escalated to senior management in 16 separate films. Despite a range of precautionary measures in place, including increased security, removal of late-night showings and reduced screening of the film, the decision to withdraw Blue Story in its entirety was made on Saturday evening on grounds of safety alone

They go on to say, ‘This decision is not, as some have alleged, based on biased assumptions or concern about the content of the film itself.  At Vue, we believe passionately in bringing people together and using the power of the big screen experience to entertain, educate and inspire all of our audiences.’ 

Rapman responded to the incident by posting on Instagram : ‘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. Blue Story is a film about love not violence.' 

He also made reference to incidents of violence that accompanied the release of the film Joker, ‘it’s always unfortunate, but I hope that the blame is placed with the individuals and not an indictment of the film itself.  I pray that we can all learn to love with love and treat each other with tolerance and respect’.

Warner’s Brother’s recent R-rated film, Joker also hit the big screen in the first week of October and has already grossed up to $1.036 billion in the box office worldwide.  But there was heightened security in theatres across the US, fearing that the film could be a potential trigger for violence.

The film has divided critics over the portrayal of mental health and violence, with some suggesting that the ‘sympathetic origin story’ of Arthur Fleck, a failing stand-up comedian with unstable mental health who turns to a life of crime by causing havoc in Gotham City, could inspire others to violence.

Relatives and friends of the victims of the 2012 shooting at the showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado have been particularly vocal in criticising the film’s portrayal of gun violence.  In a letter to Warner Brother’s CEO, Ann Sarnoff, they say, ‘We’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns.  We’re calling on you to be part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe’. 

Warner Brother’s responded, ‘Make no mistake: Neither the fictional character Joker nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero. Gun violence in our society is a critical issues and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues.

Many others have praised the film as an art piece. Josh Brolin from the Marvel Cinematic Universes stated, ‘To appreciate Joker I believe you have to have either gone through something traumatic in your lifetime (and I believe most of us have) or understand somewhere in your psyche what true compassion is’. Forbes names Joker the year’s best film: ‘Joker is an awesome accomplishment sure to please fans of the character and of the superhero genre, as well as average viewers just looking for a terrific film for adult audiences’.

The Face of Joker: Protests & Political Demonstrations 

The pale face and sinister red smile of the Joker’s makeup has been used in protests around the world. In Chile, Lebanon, Hong Kong and Iraq protesters have been sporting masks, face paint and graffiti art in public demonstrations and protests against government corruption and elitism.

Artists in Lebanon and Iraq added the Joker to their posters and have edited the characters into visual content on social media.  A statue in Santiago, Chile has been sprayed painted with “We are all clowns” and in Hong Kong protesters have dressed up as The Joker as an act of rebellion against the government ban of face masks and face coverings during public events.

Blog Post Author: Vandana Thanki