all white in barking

November 26, 2008

barking

All White in Barking gave me a mini-documentary shot when we watched it on tv during our cabin weekend. I realized only later that it was commissioned as part of the BBC’s White Season, which asks the question (with its controversial trailer), ‘Is white working class Britain becoming invisible?’

Compared to many others, director Marc Isaacs has no qualms in provoking and actively creating situations for his subjects in the London borough of Barking, which is rapidly changing its ethnic makeup. Isaacs first asks a white couple what they think of their Nigerian next-door neighbour. After capturing all their preconceptions on video, he sets them up to have a meal together next door, and tapes that too, and the debriefing afterwards. Holocaust survivor Monty has a live-in carer and companion in Betty from Uganda.

It was interesting to watch residents be candid to the camera, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what point Isaacs wanted to make. Perhaps the point was just to make the film. If anything I felt Isaacs goaded the white residents a little too much, just to get a rise out of them, while no one else was challenged particularly.

This left me with a vaguely unsettled feeling, while a final, poignant take of the oddest-looking local pensioners made me feel sad for the miscommunication and incomprehension that can arise from fast-changing times.

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