Socialist Worker

Black—an insightful tale of racism, poverty and alienation

by Naima Omar
Issue No. 2518

A scene from new film Black

A scene from new film Black


Black is a film adaptation of books by author Dirk Bracke—influenced by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Arthur Laurents’ West Side Story,

It is largely set in Molenbeek, a district of Brussels in Belgium.

This is where some of those involved in recent terror attacks in Brussels and Paris were from. The location is a critical element to the plot. Molenbeek is an area with high unemployment and many recent immigrants.

It’s where we meet young Marwan (Aboubakr Bensaihi) and Mavela (Martha Canga Antonio), who start dating despite being from opposing gangs, the 1080s and Black Bronx.

The film’s most violent and inhumane moments are between and within the gangs.

It seemed that it was trying to tackle too many issues within a limited time frame and the dramatic plot was in danger of overshadowing its comment on race, gender and class.

But, surprisingly, it works because it focuses on social divisions and the racism faced by young people who seek a sense of belonging within the gangs.

The couple ultimately face the consequences of their decision to leave the gangs.

Marwan is seen as disloyal and Mavela is seen as someone else’s property. When Marwan looks to leave the gang and get a job his elder brother and gang leader Nassim tells him it’s futile. “You were born here but you’re still different, you’ll always be a foreigner,” he says.

This film is worth going to see and gives an insight into the lives of immigrants and the racism, poverty and alienation they suffer.

It also tries to understand what can drive someone to have so much hatred for the country they are brought up in.

Black. Directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. In cinemas now

Labour pains—tensions and divisions, from Cole to Corbyn

The People’s History Museum in Manchester is offering historical context to the current turbulence within the Labour Party.

A new exhibition examines past and present tensions using artefacts from the museum’s collection and Labour Party archives. It includes Nye Bevan’s resignation letter from 1951, on display for the first time ever.

The museum comments that the tensions “have been a recurring theme since at least the 1930s”.

People’s History Museum, Manchester. Free entry. Until 26 September. phm.org.uk

Just an ordinary lawyer 

This new play by Tayo Aluko—best known for his superb Call Mr Robeson—is about a lesser known figure from “black British” history, Tunji Sowande.

A Nigerian with a talent for singing and a love of cricket, Sowande hit institutionalised racism and the “colour bar” for six to become Britain’s first black judge.

Aluko wonderfully portrays Sowande’s “quiet eloquence” amid a context of rising anti?colonial and anti-apartheid struggles in Africa, and the US civil rights and Black Power movement.

The play is a product of Aluko’s characteristically rich historical research and insight. Every socialist, anti-racist and ­anti?imperialist will love this.

Christian Hogsbjerg

Written and performed by Tayo Aluko. Tour info bit.ly/2byG0Rt

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