An impressive new film on the death of Mark Duggan, and the riots that followed, provides a welcome radical alternative narrative.
Ken Fero’s new film, Burn, (dedicated to those who burn for justice) describes itself as a movie about memory. He asks ‘why Britain burns?’ and there are a variety of responses, but the consensus seems to be that the ‘community memory runs deep’ despite the ‘media practising amnesia’.
Veterans of the anti-racist struggle in Tottenham are interviewed: Stafford Scott (Tottenham activist and founder of Tottenham Rights), Myrna Simpson (mother of Joy Gardner who died at the hands of the police in 1993) and Minkah Adofo tell the history of Tottenham and its experience of brutal policing. There are also interviews with Carole Duggan (aunt of Mark Duggan), Graeme Burke (son of Joy Gardner) and young people who took part in the disturbances as well as a senior police officer involved in policing the riots in Hackney.
The film is a mix of interview, footage from live events such as riots, demonstrations and memorial marches, poetry and stills. Fero’s poetry provides a powerful commentary to the film, and the lilting political prose makes you reflect on the images and words that you are seeing and hearing.
There is footage from a moving press conference held in the weeks following the shooting of Mark Duggan, where Stafford Scott asks ’Where in England has the media ever been gathered together and asked to look at four families who live in a three-mile radius of each other who have all lost loved ones at the hands of the Metropolitan police service?’ (He was referring to the families of Cynthia Jarrett, Joy Gardner, Roger Sylvester and Mark Duggan.)
Burn pulls no punches and dares to question the established view of the 2011 riots and the murder of Mark Duggan. Fero is an uncompromising filmmaker who has dedicated the last twenty-five years to making political films examining the realities of communities at the butt end of racist policing. One of the last lines in the film from community activist Minkah Adofo is typical of Fero’s uncompromising style of filmmaking about the dispossessed: ‘Injustice caused the fires and only justice will quell the fires.’
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