Until the 14th of June if any one spoke of a visceral video titled “Hurt”, I would immediately think of Johnny Cash’s final video, a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song of the same name. A song that explores the nature of nihilistic self-destruction (though the video exposes the ravages that time has wrought upon the late singer). However, an invitation to attend the premier of “Hurt”, a powerful 20 minute short film made by the clients of Birmingham Youth Offending Services (BYOS) in collaboration with Recre8, a company who works to create and rehabilitate by use of a combination of psychological theories and drama techniques has now changed that. For they have created an equally taut and compelling film, a film that may actually have the power to save lives, both figuratively and literally.
The pre-show meet and greet allowed the audience to chat with both the actors and the production team behind the film. The cast were articulate, enthusiastic, personable and positive about their creative experience. The young man I spoke to was not only excited at seeing himself on the big screen but also hopeful that this might prove to be only the start of an index of potential possibilities that may well open for him. A chance that he seemed to appreciate, as he obviously realised the value of the experience that the project had given him. It seemed to me that this was a value that might be measured not only artistically, but socially as well.
Conversations with both the BYOS case managers and the producers at Recre8 reinforced the complete positivity, creativity and commitment of all the young people involved, the majority of whom had come into contact with BYOS due to offending behavior. The finished film will be used as part of a program to re-educate those young people who have been involved in knife crime and related incidents – and who better to warn their contemporaries of the danger of knife related crime than those with first hand experience of it and have already been unfortunate to have been negatively affected by it? The good news is this innovative initiative is to continue: Recre8 are currently developing 2 further short films alongside Birmingham Youth Offending Service, Pretty Hate Productions and Daniel Alexander Films.
After the reception we moved into the auditorium, which was soon overflowing with a flash flood of family and friends of the cast, the creative team and all those associated with the production. The central staircase soon became an auxiliary seating area, the enthusiasm of the audience adding to the anticipation of the cast as they awaited their big screen debut. After informative speeches about the project Monique Reid-Mcken treated us to a spine-tingling live acapella rendition of Sam Cook’s classic “A Change Is Gonna Come”. A soaringly optimistic soul ballad that came to exemplify the hopes of the sixties’ Civil Rights Movement, that tonight would exemplify the hope that this film would give to both its players and its future audience.
This was given a solemn note as the actors we were about to watch carried a coffin down the stairs and placed it center stage, foreshadowing a scene we were about to see and delivering a symbolic reminder of the ultimate sentence knife crime can carry.
The film its self is short but powerful, the dialogue authentically “street” to such a degree that my unaccustomed ear struggled to get every word, but this film was not made for me and I see this as a strong positive aspect which fits perfectly the gritty realism of the production. Though resolutely contemporary in feel, the drama is aware of its roots in classic tragedy, I particularly enjoyed echoes of Shakespeare’s Macbeth when the blood of another remains an indelible tattoo on the perpetrator’s hands. There is a dark Kafkaesque overtone to the whole film that shows how environmental determinism can form an inescapable trap to those unaware of the heartbreaking consequences of carrying a knife. The actors do not betray their lack of experience and have created a very sober and thought provoking 20-minute film that should have a positive effect on those unfortunate enough to be in a position where they are shown it as part of a rehabilitation program.
Perhaps the only review that really matters is the one given by the audience as the final credits rolled, a much deserved a joyously stomping standing ovation that said all that needs to be said about the success of this project.
As someone who knew little about the work of BYOS prior to attending the premier, I have to say how impressive the work they do is and the results they achieve are (80% success rate in re offending prevention). Though I remain a little puzzled as to why their success garners so little publicity. Perhaps there is no success like failure if you are a journalist? The entire evening’s experience was a refreshingly positive antidote to the ubiquitous negative press the young people in our society receive, a relentless vilification to such a degree that “youth” has almost become a pejorative term in its self. A term that the press seem incapable of writing without collocating it with the usual adjective suspects: feckless, work-shy, lazy, scrounging and not forgetting the obligatory illiterate and innumerate. Yet this demonisation and stigmatisation of our young people, our de facto future, seems to be the compulsory knee-jerk reaction of most of our British media, a media so bogged down in its own unthinking narrative trench that it has little understanding or empathy for the debt forged manacles that higher education now imposes. A media that refuses to acknowledge the atrophy of hope such an emaciated economy and fallow jobs market must have upon this generation of youth.
Somewhere among the economic ruins of 1977 John Lydon famously coined the expression “no future” to encapsulate the hopes and dreams of his generation of youth, therefore, it is something of a tragedy that 35 years later those two words still encapsulate the hopes and the dreams of this generation of youth with more eloquence and accuracy than any others. Hurt indeed.