British readers will certainly remember the case of young Tottenham resident Mark Duggan, who was shot and killed by police in a ‘hard stop’ manoeuvre in 2011 – a hugely controversial incident that sparked anger in local communities about the treatment of black citizens, and is seen as one of the sparks that may have ignited the London riots. George Amponsah’s thoughtful documentary retells this story through the eyes of two of Mark’s peers, Marcus Knox Hook and Kurtis Henville.
Amponsah keeps the documentary at ground level, in the communities, mostly shirking news footage, and in this way the film becomes not just the story of Mark Duggan, but a portrayal of the deprived neighbourhoods of London (and indeed the UK) and the racial tensions therein. Hook is facing jail time for his role in, allegedly, catalysing the riots, while we see Henville looking for work and trying to provide for his family.
The film remains honest throughout. Our two protagonists come across as likeable, well-meaning guys whose previous lives of crime have been thrown into sharp relief by what they believe to be the unlawful killing of a close friend. Their hatred of police is palpable, and the film helps provide some context for that. The success of the film’s interactions with these two is that they provide an insight not just into Duggan himself, but the tribulations of communities who are getting a raw deal.
Shot mainly around the streets of Tottenham, the film has a genuine sense of place and mood, backed up by the use of music. There are interesting details in here about the shooting of Mark Duggan, which most viewers will remember, but also poignant moments of family, friendship and community. It doesn’t look directly at any aspect of the riots beyond the racial one, but in portraying the lives of struggling, everyday people, Amponsah’s film does more than it initially suggests. It’ s a film that reminds us about the inequality that persists in our country; about the racial tensions that shamefully still hold sway; and how community can provide hope and comfort.