The 2010 British Urban Film Festival – June Blog

This time 5 years ago, Noel Clarke was playing Billie Piper’s screen boyfriend in Doctor Who. Since then, our man Noel not only starred in ‘Kidulthood’ (recently screened again on BBC3), he went onto write and direct its’ sequel, ‘Adulthood’ – collecting a Bafta along the way. He has since starred in ‘Heartless’ and ‘Centurion’. He also starred in ‘Doghouse’ with Stephen Graham, Danny Dyer and Terry Stone, and has just released ‘4,3,2,1’ – considered by some to be the UK’s answer to the film ‘Set it Off’ – considered by others to be the 3rd instalment of the ‘Kidulthood’ trilogy. Why? Well most of the cast in 4321 featured in Adulthood – Shanika Warren Maitland, Ashley ‘Bashy’ Thomas, Adam Deacon and Benjamin Ballance ‘Plan B’ Drew. Recent reports from Variety Magazine have suggested however that Noel’s production company, Unstoppable Entertainment, are developing ‘Hood3’ as part of a development deal with Mel Gibson’s Icon Entertainment. The irony in the name of Noel’s company seems lost on the Evening Standard newspaper when one of its’ journalists recently said in a review of 4321 that the popularity of London’s urban culture – as seen through film or music – has caught some by surprise. 10 days later, the very same newspaper (whilst reviewing the film ‘Streetdance’) was quoted as saying that “London’s urban culture is becoming one of our most profitable exports”.

There is a body of opinion which is of the view that Clarke’s body of work behind the camera is much of a muchness, the impression being that Clarke is one dimensional though the same can be said for Gurinder Chadha OBE who recently released ‘Its’ a wonderful afterlife’ and was the brains behind ‘Bend it like Beckham’ and ‘Bride and Prejudice’. In an interview with the Independent recently, Clarke, 34, admits that he dislikes it when people say that he shouldn’t both act and direct: “In America, the more things people can do, the happier they are. You can do everything there. Over here they’re like, ‘What? Let me sit down and have a sip of whisky. You write, you act and you – direct?’ “I can’t understand that. You have to apologise for doing more than one thing. That bugs me. A lot.” The sentiments are shared as far as the powers that be at Buff are concerned, to the extent that Buff not only produces the film festival, it also produces films, reality shows and TV programmes.

Last month, ‘Stick With Me’ (co-produced by Buff Enterprises), the opening film for last year’s British Urban Film Festival, secured another screening, this time at the London Filmmakers Convention at the Camden Roundhouse, organised by the Portobello Film Festival – the film is also due to be shown in Germany later in the year. The multi-tasking doesn’t stop there – Sway has been approached to pen a new Buff anthem, scripts are about to be penned for future short films in the next 12 months, a major new entertainment project – Manorlogz xtreme spoken word – is in the offing with 4front Films and completion funding is almost in place for the long awaited ‘Melvin – Chronicles of a Player’, directed by Lawrence Coke.

Its’ safe to say that the group of actors and other film talent associated with Adulthood have also raised their game and continued to blaze their own trail. Buff were one of the first film festivals to screen ‘Fresh off da boat’, the 2009 debut short directed by ‘Moony’ aka Femi Oyeniran who confirmed recently at the 4321 premiere that plans are afoot to develop his short into a feature-length movie. Plan B has taken his moniker to heart and has introduced a new softer and soulful side to his music in 2010. In addition, Plan B has just had his debut feature film project ‘Ill Manors’ greenlit by Film London and BBC Films. Bashy was last seen in ‘Shank’ (and ‘Freestyle’ if you look hard enough) and looks as if he is set fair to join the long list of artists who make the transition to acting. Adam Deacon has kept himself busy, seemingly moving in the same circles as Bashy and Plan B both on and off screen. Buff has had the pleasure and fortune to meet all these young moguls in the flesh – the top dog however remains elusive despite the blanket coverage that this blog has given Clarke over the years. That said, the last word for the moment, must go to Clarke whose been quoted as saying that the urban audience is now the mainstream audience: “…that whole world is more accessible and my films made it more accessible”…

Staying with the theme of multi-tasking and one is reminded of the most recent string to the bow, mainly an article, commissioned by prominent entertainment blog Catch a Vibe, in which South African Cinema was given the soundbite treatment, skimming through the last 7 years in which you could count the number of prominent films associated with South Africa or ‘Sollywood’ on the back of 1 hand. The article was part of Catchavibe’s South Africa June edition – in recognition of the biggest sporting, media and culturally significant event of the year, the World Cup. Call it fortuitous timing, but in amongst the pre-World cup releases of 4321 and ‘Sex and the City’, award-winning Ghanaian filmmaker Baff Akoto has secured a limited cinema release for his African-based soccer documentary, ‘Football Fables’ – a film first touted for Buff way back in December 2008. Buff recently met up with Baff at Bafta (had to get that line in) to get the lowdown on how a 30 second promo (as it was then) became a major news story on CNN and has since gone onto premier in New York and collect awards at the Palermo International Film Festival. Essentially, the ‘rags to not quite riches’ tale explored by Akoto is an expose on the shady inner workings of the African football transfer market using the streets of Ghana as its setting. One would like to think that, a la programmes like 7up, the audience gets an opportunity to revisit our chief protagonist (perhaps at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil why not?) and see whether he gets the chance to write his future.

As for Akoto’s future, well there’s a potential franchise of Football Fables type films, why stop at Africa? The UK has many, many rags to not quite riches stories, waiting to be unearthed – for as one Wayne Rooney is discovered, so there shall be 100 who don’t quite make it that far. And whilst it looks like Noel Clarke has got it sussed, whose coming through the ranks in the UK film industry? Its’ not quite answers on a postcard, though submissions continue to be welcomed for this year’s British Urban Film Festival. The call has officially gone out and the festival waits to hear from filmmakers far and wide, speaking of which, much gratitude to a recent filmmaker whose film arrived from New Zealand no less. For more information, go to the website – http://www.britishurbanfilmfestival.co.uk/

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