JOINT BARAC & TNBFC PRESS RELEASE;
Victory in the Dear White People Campaign
On Wednesday 8th of July the BFI confirmed that they will be granting lottery funding for the wider distribution of the film Dear White People in UK cinemas. This decision follows a month long joint campaign by Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK and The New Black Film Collective to challenge the institutional racism in the UK film industry at large.
Campaign actions included a screening of Dear White People in the Houses of Parliament, hosted by John McDonnell MP with a post film discussion on the issue of institutional racism in the film industry and a Change.org petition signed by over 1000 people including politicians, trade union and community leaders and celebrities.
The initial refusal of the BFI to grant lottery funding for the distribution of the film in cinemas without fully exploring all avenues for release and the refusal of major art house cinema chains to screen it could have led to the film going straight to DVD in the UK despite it being a Box Office success in the USA and an award winning film.
BARAC UK & TNBFC are pleased that the BFI, be it belatedly, agreed to work in partnership with TNBFC to find a solution for Dear White People and going forward to discuss measures to improve distribution and audience development for black film in the future.
National Co-Chair of BARAC UK Zita Holbourne said;
‘I am happy that BARAC was able to work jointly with TNBFC to achieve this victory, but the institutional racism that exists in the arts and culture sector including the film industry must be challenged going forward. Black and migrant communities have made a tremendous contribution to the arts in the UK and the disproportionate impact of austerity means that the racism in the sector is amplified. Going forward the BFI must ensure that their decision making bodies reflect the communities they are supposed to serve, that they consider the equality impact of their actions and equality proof their policies and processes. It is simply unacceptable in 2015 that the only films featuring black characters or about our story on the big screen see us whipped, chained or ridiculed or that the token black character in the film is the first to die.’
Director of TNBFC, Priscilla Igwe said;
'I am delighted that through the intervention of Ben Roberts, Director of Film at the BFI, a way has been found to widen the release of Dear White People, a film that could not be more relevant in light of recent events and it bodes well for the vital investment required for contemporary Black cinema to be received in this country. We would like to thank BARAC and the support of British audiences for recognising that it is time for a change and getting behind this film.'
The campaign was always about more than just Dear White People and about the repeated rejection of films written, directed and produced by black people and about black people. Our stories just like all stories deserve to be told, it is only by sharing our experiences that we break down barriers and as we experiencing deepening racism, film is a powerful medium for initiating debate about the issues of race and racism. It is not enough for institutions to say they are for race equality, they must put this into practice and demonstrate a real commitment to ensure that bias conscious or unconscious plays no part in their decision making, that so called ‘black films’ are not pigeon holed or ghettoised and that they reach wider audiences. Therefore we see this victory not as the end of a campaign but the start.
The Dear White People Premiere and After Party took place on Wednesday 8th July at the Prince Charles Cinema and Ruby Blue in Leicester Square, London respectively. Dear White People is on general theatrical release from 10th of July
Zita Holbourne, BARAC UK Tel. 07711 861660 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Priscilla Igwe, TNBFC Tel. 07860613246 Email email@example.com
BARAC UK is a national campaign with regional structures against racism and injustice and the disproportionate impact of cuts on black workers, service users and communities and deprived communities.
TNBFC is network of film exhibitors, educators and programmers spread across the regions in the UK. As part of their range of services, they host screenings that matter to the local community featuring international and domestic films of black representation and are one of only two black film distributors in the UK.
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