Documentary

It was 19.30 when I went to Sainsbury’s to buy some food on the 8th of August of 2011. It was the day after the violence went off in Tottenham as a response for the Mark Duggam shot, done by the police. That day I had a job interview which gave me good feeling, so I was walking happy towards the supermarket. I remember that the riots in Tottenham made me think of the Paris ones back in 2005. But, as when I did when the Paris ones happened, I looked at it with some distance, as one normally and inevitably sometimes does when reading or hearing the news. I hadn’t really thought about it.

When I arrived to my local supermarket, I saw a few people standing in front of the main´s entrance, which was actually closed, so I walked to see what was happening. There was a small sign saying that Sainsbury’s closed earlier to protect the staff from the past night rioters. I thought that was just for prevention, because I could have never thought that the riots would spread from Tottenham to other areas in London.  I head back to my place, thinking only about where I could get milk for tomorrow morning’s breakfast. When I head towards Whitechapel High Street, looking for an Off License, I saw a bunch of young people around their 16’s or 17’s with caps and snoods covering their faces. They were walking fast, as if they were in a rush. I have to say I was pretty scared about the scene, so I quickly crossed the street and walk fast to get soon to my place. I obviously forgot about the milk. One could feel the tension in the air. When I arrived home I told my flatmate about the supermarket being shut and about the young group of people I had just seen, but she was quite sceptical about my words. She was only worried about the next day´s lack of milk for breakfast. A few hours later, the scene in my place was the two of us watching BBC news live, and without being able to believe what was going on in London. As probably many other people in London that night we couldn´t sleep. The way the riots spread from one area to the other in the city and without being absolutely connected to the fact that made them start was possibly the main reason why so many people stayed up late that night. The TV kept showing live footage of big buildings on fire, of young people looting, and of the police officers as disconcerted as the audience was.

My mother called me from Spain really worried about what was happening, but I tried to calm her saying we were in a safe place. I lied. We both me and my flatmate felt really scared all night, but luckily nothing really serious happened in Whitechapel. Despite of this, I think no one who was in London that night, either east, south, north or even west, will ever forget how they felt and how they passed that night. But, why?

When this course gave us the opportunity to explore the riots causes through a visual piece, we decided to make a documentary based on interviews, more than a fictional film. We had to choose a topic to explore as a starting point, and we chose “social exclusion”. I remember when we had the first discussion about it, and I wasn´t sure about doing it about social exclusion as I use to think of that term strictly related to extreme poverty and that riots night I could only think of nonsense violence and looting as a mass movement. But documentaries allow you to investigate in a subject and maybe end up with totally different conclusions that you ever thought.

There is always an intention when doing a film. It can be expressing an idea which is already conceived, it can be trying to suggest questions to an audience, disclosing a hidden idea, it could also be an investigation. In this case and especially via a medium as documentary, our film had a form of investigation on a topic, which drove us to new ideas and concepts and for that to possible answers to the questions that the riots opened. I personally ended up thinking that what seemed just a non-sense violence and looting for fun was actually saying that our society is in need for a change, and that young people need to recover hope for their future.

Interviewing Ephraim, an A-level student I found on YouTube almost randomly and Jess, a MSc Psychology student friend of Christine, gave me a different view on the social exclusion term. “Youth Junction” explores and questions the reasons that could have driven the rioters. What our interviewees say is that what could be first seen as a nonsense wave of violence could actually be a subconscious response of a lost generation who has lost their goals or feel that the system has nothing to offer them anymore.

The film revolved around the lost generation poem, written by Ephraim, and Jess as a psychology student trying to give a more academic response to what made this generation feel so lost and angry to go rioting one night in one of the most vibrating cities in the world. I started understanding the meaning of social exclusion in a different way. Social exclusion can mean poverty, but it can also be referred to a certain group of people, which doesn´t necessarily involve class, that has lost faith in their future and probably also in their present. Violence is and will always be something to reject, and there is never an excuse for it, but by doing this film, we found some possible answers to the acts of violence that spread all around London that made us understand at what stage our society is and what direction is taking.

Ingrid Solbrig

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