Gurinder Chadha has had a long career directing very successful films since her breakthrough with 1994’s Bhaji on the Beach.
In an industry that is notoriously slanted to male and middle class she has managed to maintain a steady career giving opportunities to Indian actors to have choice parts that rarely come to those working in movies and television (see Eastenders and Coronation street for racial stereotyping). While riding the Asian wave with such artists as Talvin Singh and the Goodness Gracious team there is still under representation in the media and a lack of diversity to bring a new generation of artists. Hit films like Bend it Like Beckham and It’s a Wonderful Afterlife bring to the mainstream Indian culture and mannerisms with all their eccentricities and are funny but Ms Chadha has been treading the same water for the last few films which gives it a samey albeit funny feel. You could say the same about Woody Allen doing the same thing but he is now a poor imitation of himself with a dire catalogue of his last few releases. Her next film should have Indian characters interacting with the British with no self-conscious regard to race, just a bold strong story whether it is drama or comedy. American cinema and television have achieved great success in stories that go beyond gender and race in the strong line-up of television dramas. Getting typecast for these kind of films is not good for the British industry as other Asians who are trying to make it will still be ghettoised and moving into another genre shows diversity and broadening of directorial talents and lets the industry know that diversity can also be a talent thing. Read more What Gurinder Chadha Should Do Next
There was a time up until the late 90’s where late night television cult oddities were shown to fill out the schedules. To most people this was just fodder but for some people this was THE place where b-movie fanatics discovered cult classics like Race with the Devil, or The Keep and the now forgotten classic Night of the Eagle with Peter Wyngarde. Appearing in the graveyard slots, these films were in their element for those who stayed up in the ungodly hour and are 200 percent better and scarier than anything released in recent memory.
In America there has been more of a foundation for cult movies like the Golden Turkey Awards and Joe Bob Briggs getting airtime. In the UK some took a masterly appreciation of the art form such as Alex Cox’s Moviedrome which started its movie night in 1988 on a Sunday evening with a great incisive intro. Previously tossed to the side classics were brought centre stage such as The Parallax View and various Robert Aldrich films with full appreciation but nowadays these films are rarely shown in these slots that are now filled with reality TV and cheap TV repeats.Read more Maligned Midnight Cult Classic
For me television (and the 90’s) really started with Buddha of Suburbia, which had fully developed Indian characters that weren’t stereotypes to cringe at. Yes shopkeepers and arranged marriages were in there but it was done in a funny demented way that wasn’t patronising. I know there was My Beautiful Laundrette before it (from the same writer no less) but this was better. Add My Son the Fanatic which was years ahead of it’s time in terms of it’s subject matter, East is East (not my favourite but popular nonetheless) and then the ground breaking Goodness Gracious Me and after that…. Er that’s it.
We seem to have gone backwards again with Curry urchins on Eastenders, corner shop owners on Corrie (aka Currie?) and an ITV Call Centre comedy that seems to evoke Mind Your Language seeing as the latter had an LWT weekend slot. All this slow progress and progressive work has suddenly gone into reverse. Granted, we have Gurinder Chadha flying the flag but she is all alone out there and not much is being done to pan out the television schedules to reflect the diversity of the United Kingdom and when they do it’s with a resounding commercial and critical thump. I would estimate that we are 20 years behind American television we need to close the gap.
We need characters like the ones written for the screen by Hanif Kureishi rather than the caricatures in Eastenders and Coronation street. This can only be done by true talent spotting rather than diversity nights that the channels seem to be doing to ‘feel clean’.
Actors of colour like Dev Patel and Adrian Lester have already disappeared to America where characters are stronger, can we afford to lose more like them?
When Avid and Lightworks systems came out in the dawn of the digital editing age there were specialist outlets that provided specific training courses to make the transition seamless. Equipment like that was expensive and you really had to be lucky to work for a company that invested in one (I was).
Obviously the courses were aimed at those in the industry (with the tab usually picked up by the facility houses) and very few people outside the system invested in the courses with Film Schools taking up the slack, as the prices were pretty steep...Read more Does being Final Cut Pro Certified mean anything?
I watched the pilot episode of HBO’s The Pacific and all my fears of the same run off the mill macho war film were somehow true. As a follow up to Band of Brothers it lacks a lot of characterisation that made the 2002 10 part series a groundbreaking multi character epic. It is still a powerful piece of television with it’s visceral carnage but the characters revert to that macho American attitude that harks back to clichéd war films.
Band of Brothers on the other hand, when it came out, dealt with the war not just with bravery but also with the brutal inhumane and pointless side of combat from adrenaline rush to boredom. The characters were well rounded and multi faceted. They were stripped of all the mechanics of what Hollywood producers would insert into the cinematic American grunt and was more reminiscent of films like Platoon. What was one of the ingredients that made one great and the other manufactured cliché? One strong answer is the directors chosen. They were British and managed to bring more dimensions to the characters motivation. British directors compared to their American counterparts bring the darker cynical aspects of defeat in combat much the same as Attenborough’s Bridge too Far. Back to The Pacific.Read more Why The Pacific is not a Patch on Band of Brothers
It seems for British black actors to make their mark artistically and get meaty parts they have to migrate to television and film work in the USA. The roles they play across the pond seem to have more development and are more challenging with less chances of them being a one-dimensional stereotype as in the UK.
For example Eamonn Walker did the television rounds including a stint on ITV’s The Bill during the 80’s and then moved on to seminal US TV prison drama Oz and features such as The Lord of War and Unbreakable but how come a talent like him has been let go to US primetime television when he should be given more opportunities in Blighty? In fairness he has come back to the UK for highbrow British work such as a modern day adaptation of Othello with Christopher Eccleston which was well received but how come 10 years into the new century there still aren’t that many prominent roles for black actors on UK TV? We had the ascension of Richard Blackwood (promoted lazily like a modern day Lenny Henry) before his television career burned out by mediocre material (the writing for Ed Stone of Dead should have had more edge) and a lack of talent nurturing but if he went to America at his peak would his popularity be any different like ex Grange Hill child star, Sean Maguire who is doing the rounds as a journeyman actor? I am sure the writers wouldn’t pigeonhole him to oblivion.Read more Comfortable Stereotypes and an American Work Permit