Children of the north
J oyriding is a game where risks are taken to life-or-death extremes— especially in West Belfast. Alan Morrison looks at You, Me and Marley, an award-winning drama that tackles the subject head on.
It says something about the British film industry when the Best British Film of 1992 premieres on television without a mainstream cinema release.
You, Me and Marley — the final drama in what has i
been an exemplary BBC2 ScreenPIay season — scored a hat-trick at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, picking up the prestigious Michael Powell Award for Best British Film, a Scotland on Sunday Critics’ Prize and a special commendation from the International Federation of Film Critics for ‘its courageous treatment of a social issue.’
That issue is joyriding, a hot topic in urban enclaves up and down the country, but one which takes on an increasingly complex dimension when played out on the streets of Belfast. You, Me and Marley follows the turbulent lives of a group of
young Northern Irish joyriders searching for kicks .
in a society where every action exists within a political context. Ram-raiding is one thing: here it is more significant that 85 per cent of all stolen cars in Northern Ireland end up in Catholic West Belfast.
‘There are no two ways about it,’ says director Richard Spence, ‘these are bad kids, not angels with dirty faces. They start joyriding at the age of
about nine, moving into the driving seat at twelve or thirteen, becoming top joyriders at fifteen and moving out of it at eighteen, either because they find better things to do or become full-time criminals.‘
Spence, and writer Graham Reid, author of the acclaimed ‘Billy’ plays, spent three weeks in Belfast talking to parents ofjoyriders who had been killed or who had killed others, to community workers, the RUC, magistrates, ambulancemen, academics and, of course, the joyriders themselves. ‘What we found,’ he explains, ‘was this disaffected group whom the RUC beat up, who get shot by the army for whatever reason, who get extremely brutally punished by the paramilitaries and whose own community go to Sinn Fein calling for punishment but, on the other hand, buy the stolen radios and car wheels offthem.‘
You, Me and Marley certainly gives the sense of a small group of kids, hammered in on all sides, who have had to become self-reliant in order to survive. The young cast includes the experienced (The Commitments’ Bronagh Gallagher) and the amateur (two of the leads were picked from Falls
-. Road schools), a mix which gives the film an
honesty in terms of both its humour and its
heartfelt tragedy. Spence agrees that he has a dual response to the subject matter: ‘On the one hand, it’s extremely exhilarating to find this richness of energy and lust for life, but it’s also incredibly depressing to find how complex and bleak the situation is. Being kneecapped gives you status within this outcast community of joyriders. The real hard kids are doing twelve cars a day, stealing them and burning them out within 20 to 25 minutes, or selling them for at most £40. One kid told me he’d stolen a new Astra and sold it for £2.50 because he was hungry— he bought a Chinese takeaway with it.
‘The great thing about drama is that you’re looking at the lives of individual people. Our mandate was not like documentary or news, it’s to find out how people live , what the pressures are on them, to look at a mixture of people involved. But, as the joyriders themselves said to us on dark nights in dark corners of dark cars, “You show me who has any moral standing here. You show me who's a role model. You show me who’s acting better than I am. And then I‘ll think about leaving joyriding.” ’
You, Me and Marley is broadcast on Wednesday 30 September at 9pm on BBC2.
:— Fountain of
As bastions oi broadcasting go, Critical Eye is a spring chicken. While other documentary series such as Panorama and World In Action have been plying thelrtrade lor decades, occasionally gently nudging the power-brokers towards reionn, the Channel 4 series burst on to our screens a couple oi years ago, instantly set out its stall and demanded to be heard. Its most iamous (or notorious) edition was a post-script to the London poll tax riot oi 1989 when the demonstrators were gltien
A new vision at Kuwait in Critical Eye
unlimited access to put their side oi the story. It was through Critical Eye that the tales at police provocation and brutality finally came to light.
The new series, under the overall control oi Channel 4's commissioning editor ior documentary programmes,
Alan Fountain, will once again be tackling sensitive issues, but this time on a much more global scale. Britain’s not-so-whiter-than-whlte multinationals, Guatemalan death squads and racism in France will be dealt with later on, but the series opens with a new angle on lite in Kuwait.
‘We try to cover issues which television isn't really covering, or cover issues which television does cover but leaves out important viewpoints or persepectives,’ says Fountain. ‘There have, oi course, been plenty oi documentaries about the Cult War, but we’re basically-looking at how democratic Kuwait actually is, and what’s happening to the people there — that’s a perspective that hasn’t been covered.
‘We encourage people to be quite
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: WITHOUT WALLS 0 TV REVIEW 0 VIDEO ROUND-UP
polemical,’ he continues, ‘and quite learless in the way they put their views iorward. We want people to come up with passionate programmes on things that they really believe in. We don’t want, ‘On the one hand. . . and on the other hand . . . but we don't really know'. The views and ideas that are represented are those oi people who tend to be powerless in society. One oi the things we ilnd is that it we try to interview a cabinet minister, or whoever, they tend not to want to appear anyway. Increasingly we’re ilndlng that powertul people aren't that bothered about coming onto TV; they’re much happier just having the power.’ owmhm
Free Kuwait is on Channel 4 at 9pm on Thursdayl October.
The List 25 September - 8 October 1992 63