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20 ตุลาคม 2550
 
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This is England

Picked up a couple of cheap pirate DVD's from Vientienne's morning market last Sunday. 3 out of the 4 were English movies, Stormbreaker, 28 Days Later and 'This Is England.' I was asked to pay for them almost as soon as I'd picked 'This is England' up, so there was no time to read the blurb on the back, and decide whether I would like, or want to watch the film or not.

I'd no idea what the movie would be about. Until I saw it in the market, I'd no idea that it even existed. The only clue as to the story was that the movie was set in 1983. The characters on the cover were all wearing 80's gear and had skinheads.

I wondered what the director and writer would choose to focus on. Thatcher? The Miners Strike ? The Falkland's War?

I was 9 at the time the movie is set. My 1980's were spent riding a second hand tomahawk and playing with rubics cubes and MB Boardgames, watching Wacky Races, Blue Peter, Top of the Pops and Jim'll Fix It (yeah - am not ashamed to admit that I liked them), running down our street in my backwing jumper and trying to re-enact the dance scenes from Grease. As kids I guess we were (compared to Thai kids, we definitely were) quite politicised. We knew who Neil Kinnock was. We knew about the miner's strike. We saw the pictures of the Falklands war on TV. Thatcher was an evil woman. She was the one who'd taken my dad's job away from him, and made him go to live and work away. She'd also stopped me getting free morning milk at school, and made my mum go to work in the evenings as well as in the afternoon.

The movie captures the mood of the time perfectly. Bored, disillusioned working class youngsters on council estates finding their identies by becoming skin heads. The darker side of this, the violence and the racism that accompanied skinhead sub-culture is also explored too.

It's probably the best film I've seen so far this year. Shane Meadows, the director has a gift for capturing raw human emotions on film. Sean, the 12 year old kid is searching for a role model, someone who can act as a father figure, who can give him something to believe in, to compensate for the dad he lost in the war. He's also looking for friends; people who can understand him and why he doesn't want to wear oversized flares or plain black shoes. His lifeless mother, all permed hair and thick wooley jumpers loves, but has no longer has any idea how to relate to her troubled son. The gang's group dynamics. Gadget's jealousy when Sean gets accepted as a new member of the gang and is taken under the leader's wing. The way that Sean's quest for acceptance leads him to do things that he would never do on his own. He watches his new friends threaten people with knives, beat them up, and wreck empty council houses. There's no shying away from the violence. It's a brutally honest film, a moving and powerful portrait of teenage working class life.

The soundtrack, ska, punk, and cheesy electronic pop fits perfectly too.

Watching the movie reminded me of my own childhood (saying and writing this last sentence makes me feel really old...) Sheffield had a lot of skinheads and punks when I was a kid. I remember taking the bus to town with my mum, walking through the 'Hole-in-the-Road' and being both amazed and a bit scared by their size, big army style boots, menacing stares and shaved heads. Most of the places they hung out have long since been demolished. Sheffield's done its best to turn itself into a cosmopolitan northern city. The steelworks have long gone. The 1960's subways and modernist high rise flats, built in the hope of giving the town and its people a better future, have almost all been knocked down too.

Unlike other teenage subcultures, hippies, punks, or 90's indie kids for instance, people aren't that eager to admit that they were skin heads. It was a violent, and often racist subculture. It was something working class kids grew into and then out of. In today's politically correct world, to say that you wanted to be part of a skinhead gang; to threaten and intimidate people or that you took pleasure in beating people up because of their clothes or the colour of their skin, is tantamount to social suicide. But, in the early 1980's skinheads were everywhere. Someone, somewhere must have been, or wanted to be one...

As kids we were naturally racist. We didn't know any better. Political correctness hadn't been thought of, or entered the dictionary. When we went to the shops we went past the 'pakki' house at the bottom of the road. The was only one pakistani family living in our area. Their kids never spoke to us (though now - seeing that most of them had to listen to us call them 'pakkies' I can kind of understand why.) Somedays they wore saris, strange silky clothes which seemed out of place on an estate where all the other kids wore T-shirts, parkas and drainpipe jeans. They were novelty and freakshow rolled into one.

We couldn't understand why everyone, grans, grandads, aunt's and uncle's lived together under 1 roof. It seemed strange. Maybe plane tickets to England were really expensive. Maybe they were really poor. Their house always smelled strange. Adults made jokes about how they multiplied like rabbits. Everytime we went past there, there seemed to be a new kid playing on the front lawn. The grown up's rumours seemed to be true. Grans and grandads, aunts and uncles were supposed to have their own place, on the other side of the city. They weren't supposed to sponge off or live with other people, were they?

It was only when I went to university in London that I realised that I had been racist. I'd been there 2 weeks, and, sat with a group of new 'friends' who were complaining about being hungry, suggested we should go to the 'chinky' for something to eat. Their asked me to repeat what I said. I did. The resulting lecture, about how vulgar and racist it was to call people 'chinkies' (at the time I didn't even know what a 'chink' was - it was a word everyone where I lived used to talk about the local Chinese take away... ) stuck with me for a while. I should have given them a lecture back, about how sanctimonious they were, accusing me of being a racist when I was just using local 'working class' language but, at the time I was too ashamed to. I hardly ever spoke to those guys again...

Anyway back to the movie. I'm not sure whether you can get here or not, but if you can, it's a must view. If you wanna know more about it, the website's here...




Create Date : 20 ตุลาคม 2550
Last Update : 20 ตุลาคม 2550 23:25:40 น. 0 comments
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kerrie
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