Screen25 welcomes Blacker Dread!

Last Wednesday we screened Molly Dineen’s touching documentary Being Blacker, which chronicles 3 years in the life of Blacker Dread; a pioneer of the reggae sound system scene and local figurehead in Brixton’s vibrant community.

To open the night we welcomed director Katy Milner who introduced her short film One English Winter, now 10 years old but strikingly relevant to the current political climate in the UK. The film follows a young man who has immigrated to Britain from Jamaica in the 50s, narrated via a touching letter he is writing to his beloved back home. The short was an amazing tone setter for the feature film because of its honest portrayal of the expectancies vs the reality of post-war Britain’s dependencies. The rundown streets and buildings, tight rationing and un-welcoming nature of some of the locals, was a far cry from what he come to expect from the beating heart of Britain’s changing empire.

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Blacker Dread came to Britain from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation. His music production and shop in the heart of Brixton, which had brought him his more widely known fame,  only trickled sporadically through the grand narrative of Molly Dineen’s documentary. Dineen offered a colourful tapestry of emotions and themes throughout the feature, focusing on human connection rather then Blacker's glittering music career.

It opens with Blacker's mother’s funeral; a touching 3-hour long procession draped in her favourite colour, red, and attended in unity by 100s of her friends, relatives, and her many grandchildren. Throughout the documentary Dineen weaves the narrative back to Blacker’s country of birth, Jamaica, touching on his own and his mother's connection to his homeland, whilst interestingly focusing on the future Afro-Caribbean British generation. This is done party though Blacker’s youngest son, a bright youngster, who is now living in the green hills of Jamaica, seeking a better education to what he was given in the UK. The film also touches on gentrification, regret, judgment, youth violence and atonement, reaching into the darkest time in Blacker’s life and seeing the ripple effect his actions have had. Also featured is Blacker's best friend Naptali, a former getaway driver trying to adjust to life outside of the prison system.

After the feature we was treated to very special Q and A hosted by our amazing volunteer Donna. Unfortunately train delays meant that Blacker arrived late, however we had a fantastic opportunity to get a personal insight into Naptali’s side of the story and his thoughts on the film's message. Just when we had to start winding down Naptali received a phone call from Blacker who arrived soon after. In the short 20 minutes we had we got a taste of why people came to Blacker for advice and counselling, highlighting why his shop was considered a “backbone” rather than a cornerstone of Brixton’s community. His commanding and logical style of talking was refreshing and showed the importance of film’s responsibility to create dialog among audiences. 

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Joshua Andrews