Documentaries often pretend to be flies on walls, but in this story about violent gangs in Birmingham’s black community British filmmaker Penny Woolcock deliberately – if cautiously – makes her film a catalyst for change.
In 2010, she responded to a call from Shabba, a young man she met while making the street musical ‘1 Day’ in 2009. He wanted to inspire a truce between two warring Birmingham gangs, Burger Bar Boys and Johnson Boys, and he thought Woolcock could help. She, in turn, switched on her camera to capture the tentative negotiations, as well as the views of a number of incisive, determined young men who know and understand their area more than any politician or policemen ever could.
There’s a persuasive sense of open-ended inquiry to Woolcock’s film, and events take it in different directions – including the effect of the 2011 riots on young people. Interestingly, the film is produced by ex-Labour minister (and now BBC exec) James Purnell – which accounts for an interlude when some of the young men involved seek advice from former Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell. Genuinely eye-opening.