- For my small scale research project I have chosen to look at how race is constructed in British social problem films
Most of my research has come from Sapphire and secondly Flame in the Streets, I’m not sure yet which of the two will be my focus film, there has been a lot written about these two films, whole chapters dedicated to their analysis, whereas the other two films are only referenced in a limited way. Therefore much of my evidence for this investigation come from Sapphire and Flame in the StreetsFor small scale in the first instance your focus film will lead your investigation. For me this was Sapphire as it was a film that I had studied before, I then had to find a hook something that was worth studying about that film. For me it was the construction of race – so that’s an element of film analysis – secondly I had to think of the significance of the construction – this linked to the time period that the film was made – so I then had some contextual focus
Before I tell you more about why I chose this particular investigation and more about my films I think that it’s important for to explain what a social problem film is.These films were created Post War period and developed in the that 1950 early 1960s they are also can be referred to as ‘Social Realist’, ‘Kitchen Sink Dramas’, although out of my four films ‘A Taste of Honey’ is the only film that can truly be described as ‘Kitchen Sink’ or ‘Social Realist’ as it’s about Northern working class people, the other 3 films borrow the style of ‘Kitchen Sink’ and ‘Social Realist’.Social problem films were supposed to be films that documented what was happening at the time, the term commsensical refers to having or exhibiting native good judgment, so the views expressed in the film were in a way right for the timeSocial problem films were quick to pick up on what was happening in the news for example before Sapphire was made there were several large race riots in Notting Hill linked to the influx of immigrants coming to England from the West Indies which in turn had an effect on legislation.Films such as Sapphire and also Flame in the Street dramatized the social problem of race, but often these film were left open ended with no sense of closure on the societal ideologies presented within them. This is an additional layer that I have added to my investigation the way that these film simultaneously seek to expose ignorance but use that same ignorance to construct representations of race (for example essentialism and imperialism), therefore exposing these films as contradictory texts.
These films made me realise that older British films had some worth, and they didn’t just seek to entertain but present how real people were living
I didn’t actually see Jemima and Johnny but I would like to for the purposes of this investigation. Watching Flame in the Streets and Sapphire allowed to investigate how black people where treated in the 1950s and 1960s and why. Also to do my favourite thing textual analysis and to look at how representations in the films were constructed.
Adapted by Ted Willis from his own stage play ‘Hot Summer Night’. Director Roy Ward Baker makes no allowances for liberal sensibilities and pulls few punches in delivering what he himself termed "a harsh picture". Baker elicits a stirring performance from Brenda De Banzie, whose transformation from typical housewife and mother to snarling racist is the centrepiece of the drama.
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How ‘race’ is constructed in British social problem films
Transcript of "Small Scale help "
AIMS:<br />To clarify what you should be doing<br />To provide guidance via my own example<br />Be aware of the marking criteria<br />To go away with a clear understanding of what to do for next weeks lesson<br />9/29/2011<br />1<br />
How ‘race’ is constructed in British social problem films<br />Small Scale Research Project<br />
Focus film? Sapphire (Basil Dearden, 1959) <br />Second film: Flame in the Streets<br />(Roy Ward Baker, 1961)<br />Third film: A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961)<br />Fourth film: Pool of London (Basil Dearden, 1951)<br />
What is a social problem film?<br />“…the social problem films of the late 1940s and 1950s are commonsensical texts… Sensitive to changes in the culture and in the industry, the social problem film is also a distant relative of neorealism and of docudrama.”<br />“The social problem film was particularly sensitive to the “news of the day and to immediate social issues that were identified with journalism, social science research, and legislative-political developments.”<br />“Films such as Sapphire (1959) dramatized the social problem of race…”<br /> (Landy in Landy, 2001:149)<br />
Why I chose my investigation title<br />While studying for my A Levels I was exposed to films such as:<br />
Why I chose my investigation title<br />While studying for my degree I covered a unit called Media Ethnicity & Nation for one of the lectures we were encouraged to look at the following films<br />Jemima + Johnny (1966)<br />
Sapphire <br />Sapphire is a film which picks up race as an issue, by mapping it across gender, in the story of a girl who tries to pass as white. <br />The framework of the detective story makes the woman into the problem, and raises questions about the way in which genre determines meaning in popular forms. <br />Sapphireis a graphic portrayal of ethnic tensions in 1950s London, The film presents a multifaceted and frequently surprising portrait that involves not just "the usual suspects", but is able to reveal underlying insecurities and fears of ordinary people. Sapphire is also notable for showing a successful, middle-class black community - unusual even in today's British films. (http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/440288/) <br />
Flame in the Streets<br />Made in the wake of the 1959 Notting Hill riots in London, Flame in the Streets is an early examination of tense racial prejudices within a working-class family when their daughter falls in love with a Jamaican. <br />Jacko Palmer (John Mills), is a liberal-minded trade unionist, he fights racial discrimination in a London furniture factory and averts a threatened strike over the appointment of West Indian Gomez (Earl Cameron) to shop steward, but has to face up to his own deeper prejudices when his daughter (Sylvia Syms) falls in love with a Jamaican teacher. The couple plan on marrying, and that creates havoc in the Palmer household where Kathie's racist mother Nell (Brenda De Banzie) finds this out. Meanwhile, the streets of London are infused with racial tension as ‘Teddy Boys’ confront the West Indian immigrants on an intense November night. <br />
A Taste of Honey<br />One of the original kitchen-sink British dramas of the 1960s, A Taste of Honey grabbed several bulls by the horns - domestic strife, sex, race, pregnancy and homosexuality - and produced a gritty and powerful story about the life of a working class girl from 'up north'.<br />Rita Tushingham plays Jo, who leaves home after her alcoholic mother marries a wrong 'un. She moves in with a gay colleague, has an ill-advised one night stand with a vanishing black sailor, and ends up in the family way. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/ilove/years/1961/films3.shtml) <br />
Two sailors, on shore leave, are caught up in a diamond smuggling racket. More complications ensue for black sailor Johnny who finds love and heartache in London docklands.<br />Basil Dearden's paean to London docklands in the 1950s is as enchanting and as murky as the river: a noir-ish heist tale, liberally suffused with a fable of forbidden love and unrestrained passion. The heist element of Pool of London (1951) is well crafted and suspenseful, but the most striking aspect is Dearden's tentative venture into racial politics, with the first interracial relationship in a British film. (http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/475521/) <br />Pool of London<br />
How my investigation is starting to take shape<br />Some things that I will be looking at and discussing in my presentation is race representation and it construction<br />Black race representation<br />Sexuality<br />Imperialism<br />Africa<br />Stereotypes<br />Essentialism<br />White race representation<br />Teddy Boys<br />White as a privilege<br />‘The tolerant white man’<br />Illogical white women<br />
How my investigation is starting to take shape<br />Some things that I will be looking at and discussing in my presentation is how these films reflected society at the time and recurring motifs<br />Fear of miscegenation<br />Families under threat<br />Fears over immigration linked to moral decline<br />Punishment for crossing the colour line<br />
How my investigation is starting to take shape<br />Some extra questions and things to investigate further <br />The contradictory nature of the films<br />Did these films help racial tensions at the time or just fuel a fire?<br />
Next steps<br />BREAKING DOWN CHOSEN TEXTS<br />Identify key scenes<br />Identify narrative structure <br />List key characters<br />Match an important scene to each of the key characters<br />List the micro features that bring bearing on the area of the investigation.<br />List messages and values that are expressed <br />ENSURE ALL NOTES MADE ON THE ABOVE ARE RELEVANT TO MY INVESTIGATION<br />Textual analysis from the films themselves - EXAMPLE<br />‘At the level of dialogue, the film seeks to disclaim such an interpretation. Reflecting on the meaning of the 'red taffeta under a tweed skirt'. Leoroyd offers the explanation “that's the black under the white alright." Hazard tells him to "corrie off it'; but what we see, rather than what we are told, seems to support Leoroyd rather than Hazard.’<br />(John Hill, in Screen Vol 26/1 1985)<br />
Next steps…<br />Conduct Contextual Research – finding out what was happening in Britain when the films were made<br /> ‘The onset of mass immigration from India, Pakistan and the Caribbean in the late 1940s and the 1950s coincided with the dismantling of the British Empire, and the decline of Britain's global status. Immigration became the focus for the debate about these broader shifts. While policy makers welcomed the influx of new labour, there was at the same time considerable unease about the impact that such immigration may have on traditional concepts of Britishness. As a Colonial Office report of 1955 observed, 'a large coloured community as a noticeable feature of our social life would weaken... the concept of England or Britain to which people of British stock throughout the Commonwealth are attached.' These fears translated themselves into a concern about the need to control immigration. Immigration controls were seen, not as a means of matching immigrants to jobs, but of preventing the presence of too many non-white immigrants from tarnishing Britain's racial identity.’ (http://www.kenanmalik.com/lectures/immigration_oxford.html)<br />
Next steps…<br />Other things to do<br />If you are investigating something new to you, e.g. a topic or films you don’t know of the RESEARCH, swot up on them<br />Use you blog to store useful links/information you’ve come across<br />YOU COULD… start to break down your investigation into smaller parts e.g.<br />looking at the construction of the representations <br />what are the representations informed by? <br />what was going on at the time the films were made before, during, after? <br />Consider the British context - e.g. themes across films <br />Does the director of the film make a difference? <br />Reviews of films/ Critical responses to the films <br />What is the current state of representation? <br />
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