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"Rikki Beadle-Blair (FIT) returns to Outfest with this hard-hitting urban drama adapted from his 2005 stage play exploring the intersection of race, sexuality and music. After a brutal gay bash attack at a reggae dancehall competition, a group of thuggish performers defend their actions as being provoked by the victim. They serve a shockingly light sentence, and as their release date nears, their original public defender rallies with the victims to examine the homophobic song lyrics and ask the question 'Did the music make you do it?' Featuring finely tuned performances by a multiracial cast."
Bashment screens 9:45pm, Thursday, 14th July at DGA 1.
very once in a while, the issue of leadership in the GBLT community comes up; we ask, "Where's OUR Martin Luther King?"
Perhaps these figureheads only count when they're dead. Peter Tatchell must surely have earned his wings by now. Dan Choi's stood up and been counted. And happily, they're both alive, explaining perhaps why they don't appear, Che Guevara-like, on posters and flags.
If anyone deserves the crown of "our" Martin Luther King, it's Rikki Beadle-Blair, the playright, director, musician (and more). A longtime fan of his work (since 2001's iconic Metrosexuality) I've also had the good fortune to hear him speak several times. The Q&As he holds after his plays are often as electrifying as the show itself. Rikki unites like no one else; he's a lightning rod for unity, the theatres from which his plays are performed are minarets - except instead of a call to prayer, the call is to unity.
Now, personally, I spend too much time in defensive mode, feeling angry about the bad guys - the James Earl Hardys of this world - who seek to incite hate and maintain the status quo. But there I go again. I would tear my enemies to pieces - Hardy, Westboro, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mugabe... Jeremy Clarkson - expecting it would make me feel better but, as a wise man once said, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. That message permeates Bashment - and Beadle-Blair's work in general. His solution is healing, redemption, and unity.
In Bashment, J.J. (Joel Dommett) is a white, gay MC trying to make it big in the world of ragga and grime. What happens when he brings his boyfriend Orlando to a bashment competition - and the shocking clash with the Ilford Illmanics that ensues - changes the lives of everyone involved.
You can't argue with Bashment - whether you're a black separatist or a white racist (or even a black racist or a white seperatist) - because Bashment is realness, The Truth, in its purest form. Brutal, raw, ugly (who amongst us, black or white, can stand to hear the dreaded "N" word uttered, time and again, both as a slur and an affirmation?) Bashment is an emotional sucker punch, delivering blow after blow, leaving no time to pull back to a place of safety. Don't hide: this is how it is, like it or not.
Ironically, a film like Bashment couldn't be made in America. Its message would be reduced to a hackneyed, worthy, black vs. white Spike Lee-style slog, as if the issue of race and sexuality and class really were, literally, black and white.
But everyone has an agenda. Everyone wants to be on somebody's team. I'm black, I'm white. I'm a Muslim. I'm middle-class, I'm a socialist. Bashment - and Rikki Beadle-Blair - makes me want to be on the only side worth fighting for: unity.
In the post-film discussion, Rikki said we're all the same, every one of us. I wish it were true, and I wish I could let go of everything else and be part of that. Perhaps one day, I - and you - could be.
It's something to aspire to (and how often does a film make you while like that?).
As for the film, it's not a boring preachy lecture about how we should all just get along. It shows us why we don't, and how we can fix it. If you bred Kidulthood with Crash, you'd start to get something like Bashment, although it amounts to much more than both. It's a beautiful mission statement, advocating oneness, and an ugly indictment of what we've got. It's packed with laughter and tears, plenty of eye candy (of all flavours) and pure talent. It's the best thing you'll see this year and, just maybe, this decade.
Bashment was written and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair.
The preview was screened at
Theatre Royal Stratford East, London,
on 15 October 2010.
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