Being Blacker is filmmaker Molly Dineen’s first documentary for 10 years and tells the story of Steve ‘Blacker Dread’ Martin, music producer and record shop owner in Brixton – and also an immensely popular, larger-than-life figurehead of South London’s Jamaican community.
It will be broadcast on BBC2, March 12 at 9pm and in the 11 days before that also shown at special screenings at theatres across London and in Oxford. Visit beingblackerfilm.com
The idea for the movie-doc arose when Blacker – whom Dineen first met 37 years ago when he featured in a film she made as a student – asked her to film his mother’s funeral. What follows is a portrait, in equal measures uplifting, funny, exasperating and tragic, of the challenges, conflicts and quirks of being black in modern Britain.
At the centre of this is Blacker himself; the man whose extraordinary life has seen him experience three generations of educational inequality, racism, cultural isolation, lack of employment opportunities, crime and violence, but also an extraordinary sense of togetherness and community spirit, and a vibrant musical culture which has done so much to shape today’s UK music scene.
Over a period of three years the film follows Blacker and his wide circle of family and friends through his incarceration for fraud, his daughter’s wedding, his youngest son’s education in Jamaica, and the spectre of violence and criminality cast over his life by his son’s murder a decade earlier – all recalled in Blacker’s charismatic voice.
Molly Dineen is renowned as one of the country’s finest factual film makers, but was still a student when she shot Sound Business in 1981; a film which took her into British incarnations of Jamaica’s famous Sound Systems, where she first encountered a young Blacker Dread, desperate to make it on the Jamaican music scene.
Being Blacker was shot in Molly’s inimitable first-person style, which was developed through such films as Home from the Hill – about retired colonial British Lieutenant-Colonel Hilary Hook; BAFTA-winner The Ark, about London Zoo; profiles of Tony Blair and Geri Halliwell; and The Lie of the Land – also a BAFTA winner – about British rural life on the eve of the fox hunting ban.
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