I Went to My First Film Festival and the Racists Had me Shook (124/365)

I’ve always been someone who loves film, I studied film studies (which led to years of pretentious fuckery), I go to the cinema whenever I can and generally love talking to people about films. One thing I’d never done was go to an actual film festival and be around people who also love film – let me tell you this was a strange experience.

I went to the viewing of a brilliant film called Woman at War, which follows a woman in Icelands journey as an environmental activist who makes many direct attacks on the government. The use of music in the film is what makes it stand out – but this isn’t a film review sadly. One thing that concerned me was the blatant racism shown by the audience.

I initially learnt that film festivals tend to have a certain demographic, and it’s old white people. Part of it is because it isn’t advertised to younger generations and it’s just not accessible to working class people at all. Now, I honestly didn’t think the audience would make such an impact on me – but they did, and it was fucked up.

Woman at War is a film that is a social commentary on everything from feminism to issues of race in Iceland. The way it explores racism is through a South American tourist, who is obviously brown and has the worst luck known to man. Whenever Hella (the main protagonist) commits a crime, he is there, and he gets stopped by the police multiple times.

Every-time it happened in the film, the audience laughed. Some of them couldn’t stop laughing, it was so disgusting I was about to start a fight. The reason the laughter offended me is because this is a real issue, police tend to target ethnic minorities without proof, or evidence, they just assume more melanin means more crime. So to listen to a white audience just laugh at it pissed me off. They will never experience these issues, so how dare they have the nerve to laugh at it. It’s not a joke, this shit actually happens.

Small example, Birmingham is currently under section 16 which allows the police to randomly stop and search people without any real reason to. It’s in response to the high rates of knife crime, so I understand the need for it, but the police are racist. Within a few days of it being introduced my 18 year old brother was stop and searched very roughly, whilst also being handcuffed. Not only is he the least likely to ever commit a crime (he snitches on his siblings daily) but he’s also autistic, so honestly the fact that they rough handled him is disgusting. Do you know why they did it – because he’s black. We as a family made the mistake of forgetting to have the conversation about how to navigate the police as a black boy when he was younger – but the fact that this is a conversation we have to have is disgusting and it’s the world we live in today.

Back to the racists at the film festival.

So initially I thought that the film itself was making a mockery of racism because of the audiences response, my friend told me afterwards that it wasn’t the film, it was the people. And that this always happens. Less than a day after I made a rant on Instagram, and got a response from a friend who also experienced the same thing.

Sometimes we forget racism is a thing, and this hit me like a brick.

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