Tenantspin Community Film Night

Screening at FACT
30th June 2009

Reviewed by John Owen

This was a double bill of Liverpool films starting with an eerie classic documentary and a drama of urban black experience set in Liverpool 8 pre-riots – ‘US and Them’ and ‘Lucky’ respectively.

US and Them, directed by Peter Leeson, captured the essence of regeneration and progress and development, but concentrated on the harsh conditions of existence of a single family with eight kids, and how the road planning that was breaking up the old Scotland Road community meant change for the worse, not better.

The posh commentary highlighted salient statistics and facts and occasionally broke into scouse brogue when describing the resistance and fortitude with which people eked out their existence, in the remnants of Victorian-style social housing. Deprivation, poverty and hardship were facts of life, which people got on with, as the parish priest’s gently calming voice intoned, fronting officialdom for support for the area of Vauxhall in a parish priest of old way.

Following on from this classic old style method of research, came the weird and wonderful stilted accents, posh voices, “Z-Cars meets o lucky man” parody Lucky. This film was centred on main character Lucky, played by actor Paul Barber, of Boys From the Black Stuff, Only Fools and Horses and numerous plays and films.

A tale where a young black man of Irish and African descent, a newly-released prisoner of the city’s famous free hotel Walton jail where he was sent for answering back to authority, returns to the streets. Here a nosey probation officer secretly lusts after his body, but says he aims to save his soul, by getting him a job. Samuel Obutu is launched into supposed freedom.

With a proud outlook, active social conscience and raging search for identity, he meets a buddy who has escaped the ‘pool to London, but is back on the mean streets of the city. Issues of ethnicity, cultural identity, and moral recidivism play out through a search for who you really are and what is this slavepool called Liverpool?

With its harsh people, gang warfare racial divide, his identity compounded by his mother being white Irish, his father a Nigerian seaman, working on the Elder Dempster line, but gone awol. When asking his hardened mother “where is me dad?” “Dad?” she says, then points to the kids saying “see him six years old, see her four years old, that’s the last time I seen your father”.

The film is brutally honest in its depiction of the life surrounding the city’s most oppressed layers and the ways people subvert and get by to live, in spite of constant police scrutiny. The baddie comes in the form of Detective Sergeant Williams, played by Peter Kerrigan, who is a shabby racist and corrupt copper, who fastens onto the back of Samuel, determined to put the shackles back on and save the world from evil.

Meanwhile temporary respite comes from relaxation in old shabeens for a secret drink. But this turns sour as the godfather figure tells him that his dad has fucked off to Nigeria, owns a house, has two wives that don’t answer back and why should he hightail back to a white woman who talks back to him unlike his other wives?

Overall though the night was a great lively event, good atmosphere and entertainfomation. We all learned something, like how to listen to people as the two oldest members of Tenantspin - Doris and John - relayed their tuppence worths for the benefit of all. Director Peter Leeson managed to get a few words in under protest.

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