Cinemas in Birmingham have been caught up in a bitter row between police and film makers as they were advised not to screen a
controversial new film about city gangs.
1 Day , which is to go on general release next week, tells the story of two rival gangs of black youths who are caught up in the underworld of drugs and guns.
The film was shot on the streets of Handsworth with the cast recruited from nearby neighbourhoods.
The row between police and filmmakers reached boiling point last night when it's director, Penny Woolcock, claimed that Odeon, Cineworld and Vue cinemas had all been advised by West Midlands Police not to screen the movie in Birmingham.
Woolcock, said: Censoring this film is shortsighted, shameful and lets a lot of people down. Even if 1-Day did glamorise gun violence, which it certainly does not, I do not think it is the function of the local police to go round saying what
films should be shown and which ones shouldn't. Let people decide for themselves.
But Assistant Chief Constable Suzette Davenport strongly denied there had been official censorship from West Midlands Police. The assistant chief constable said she had spent all day trying to find out where the message had come from not to
show the film: I would like to make it absolutely clear that West Midlands Police don't have any powers at all to censor. Organisationally, we haven't sent out a message to cinemas that they shouldn't screen this film, she said.
I have always been consistent in saying that I am concerned it glamorises gangs and the impact this will have on the people of Birmingham.
Odeon, which has a cinema on New Street, said it was not showing the film after taking advice from West Midlands Police. It declined to comment further.
Passed at '15' for strong language and violence
To get a bit of perspective, the BBFC have commented about the film:
1 Day is a drama-thriller that follows a frenzied 24 hours in the life of a gang member and drug dealer in Birmingham who must somehow find a large amount of money that he owes to his gang leader who has just been
released from prison. The film was passed at 15 for strong language and violence.
The film contains numerous uses of strong language that feature in the dialogue and the lyrics of hip-hop songs accompanying the action, certainly too many to meet with the restrictions of the Guidelines at 12A/12 which state that
the use of strong language (for example, 'fuck') must be infrequent . Consequently, the film was placed at the 15 category where the Guidelines allow for frequent use of such language.
In a film depicting the lives of characters involved in crime and gang rivalries, there are sequences of moderate threat as well as scenes where tensions break out into open violence that include the use of knives and guns.
These represent moments of strong violence with sight of its bloody consequences which required the 15 category, but there is no undue dwelling on the infliction of pain or injury , or on the bloody detail, which might have presented
a challenge to the Guidelines at 15 .
The film contains infrequent soft drug use as well as sight of hard drugs, including a scene which sees a character cooking up crack cocaine but this is portrayed without any significantly instructive detail. The
presence of drugs has a contextual justification but the depictions of drug dealing and drug misuse do not carry any elements of overt promotion or encouragement and it is likely that they would have been permitted at 12A .
The film also contains moderate language and a moderate suggestion of sexual activity.
Update: Story of a Police Censor
30th October 2009. Based on article
It seems that local police took umbrage at the portrayal of Birmingham violence in 1 Day , and the West Midlands Police Assistant Chief Constable, Suzette Davenport, appeared on television accusing filmmakers of glamorising violence .
She said: My starting-point is that it's fiction, but I think you do see some glamorisation of gang-related behaviour. The main character walks off with £100,000, leaving behind a carnage of dead bodies. It's like a shoot-out at the OK
The Odeon chain confirmed that it would not be showing the film in the city itself, although it will carry it in 10 cinemas nationwide. Cineworld has likewise opted out of a local screening, in spite of carrying it in more than 20 of its cinemas
across the country, according to the film's distributors Vertigo. Only one major multiplex - Vue - which originally declined to show 1 Day in Birmingham, had a change of heart after a consultation process. And two smaller independent cinemas in
the city will also show the film.
It emerged yesterday that a uniformed West Midlands police constable had taken it upon himself to speak to the manager of the Odeon in Birmingham and advised him, in a personal capacity, against screening 1 Day. The manager took the advice, word
spread and other multiplexes followed. Davenport said the police officer in question was mortified by the consequences of his actions, but would not be suspended or reprimanded. [yeah yeah!]
She dismissed claims that the force had tried to implement a ban, but admitted that she had written to the BBFC in an attempt to have the film's certification raised from 15 to 18 years, but said her request had been denied. She had seen the film
in a special screening.