In Brief

Blue Story: what is the gang film being withdrawn from cinemas?

Movie has been pulled from two chains after violence at Birmingham showing

Two major cinema chains have been accused of racism for their decision to withdraw a film about warring gangs after a real-life mass brawl broke out involving teenagers armed with machetes in Birmingham.

West Midlands police say up to 100 young people took part in the fighting at the Star City leisure complex on Saturday night. Six teenagers, including a 13-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy, were arrested.

However, although the force said the violence was “maybe the worst thing” its officers had seen, it added that it was “not jumping to any conclusions” over a potential connection to the film, Blue Story.

Chief Superintendent Steve Graham also insisted he did not ask for the movie to be withdrawn from cinemas. However, the Showcase chain said it would no longer show the movie at its 21 venues in the UK after Vue moved to withdraw the movie from its own theatres.

The BBC says the bans have been criticised as “institutionally racist”, “a negative bias”, and “a systematic and targeted attack”.

Umar Kankiya, a co-founder of the group Dope Black Dads, which aims to dispel negative perceptions of black fathers, said he felt there was “something a little bit more sinister underlying all of this”.

Charlene White, the ITV newcaster, tweeted: “Seriously @vuecinemas?! Clearly an isolated incident at one of your locations, but you choose to blame @BlueStoryMovie & ban it from ALL your venues.”

However, reformed gangster Errol Lawson said the film was “stirring up” violence. “The spirit behind it is stirring up this undercurrent, or supporting or fuelling this undercurrent, this narrative of violence, youth violence and disregard for life,” he added.

Defending the decision, Vue said there had been 25 incidents in the film’s first 24 hours on release the biggest number of incidents than “we have ever seen for any film in a such a short timeframe”.

Blue Story follows a character named Timmy who lives in London’s Lewisham neighbourhood but goes to school in Peckham - two parts of south-east London that have an infamous rivalry.

It is the feature debut of the grime rapper Andrew Onwubolu, aka Rapman, whose trilogy of short films dubbed Shiro’s Story went viral online last year.

BBC Films, which developed and co-financed the film, said it was an “outstanding, critically acclaimed debut feature which powerfully depicts the futility of gang violence”.

The Observer’s Simran Hans said of the film: “It shouldn’t work yet it does, underscoring the tragedy of corrupted innocence, constricting codes of masculinity and the aftermath of trauma.”

Describing it as a story of “rival gangs, love, revenge and betrayal,” The Sun said: “Blue Story has done an excellent job of illustrating the harsh realities of living on our streets, as well as educating those unaware.”

Empire said it “doesn’t completely grip” while The Guardian says the film’s “limitation” is “a modesty of means and spirit,” adding that “it’s a headscrambler to see a Paramount Pictures production with scenes that take place outside a Greggs”.

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