I’ve been away for a couple of weeks and what else to return to on British tv than a BBC3 crime season and two programmes about murders and youth gangs?
My Murder (BBC3)
My Murder was a drama based upon the murder of Shakilus Townsend in the so-called ‘honey trap’ killing a few years ago. I’ve read it described as a docu-drama, but it was a straight up drama except for a small talking head by Shakilus’s mother at the start and end of the programme. It was based obviously on research based upon facts, but was ‘narrated’ by Shakilus (John Boyega) talking about the lead up and events of his murder.
If you’ve seen Attack the Block, you’ll know who John Boyega is – the lead (Moses) in that film. He was really good in that film and I hope he has a successful career. According to wikipedia he was part of an HBO pilot by Spike Lee based upon Mike Tyson’s life where Boyega played the lead role – but it appears that the full series was not taken up. In some ways, Boyega is playing a continuation of his role of Moses in My Murder albeit someone who’s more talkative and smiles much more than Moses ever did. He’s a boy living in an estate, speaks all the South London lingo, gets into trouble, but ultimately he’s just a young boy who wants his mum. The programme also starts with Shakilus meeting up with his mate Marcus played by Franz Drameh who was Dennis in Attack the Block. At the end of the programme, they showed some real pictures of Shakilus and his murderers, and actually they look much younger than the actors playing them. Townsend was only 16 when he was murdered, and his attackers were about his age or not that much older. They were and looked so very very young.
The story goes that Shak meets Samantha, a pretty young girl, soon after he comes out of 2 months in prison. He’s planning on turning his life around, although not exactly a model character (he steals a bike and some weed when he’s back), and he’s applying to college. She is the girlfriend of a leader in the Shine my Nine gang but doesn’t tell Shak/tells him that he’s an ex. Shak and Samantha start hanging out – he buys her expensive shoes – but then Danny, her boyfriend, finds his texts on her phone. Samantha tells Danny that it doesn’t mean anything and she’ll do anything to prove her love for him (you also get a sense that she’s worried that he’ll do something to her for cheating on him). And so she agrees to get Shak to a pre-arranged place so that Danny and his friends can beat him up. She sends a flurry of texts to Danny to warn him when they will arrive while she takes Shak on the bus to the quiet place where they stab him multiple times, including fatally in his liver.
Although this case is well known as the “honey-trap” killing, the programme does not set out to portray Samantha as a heartless vixen. It shows a fairly balanced view of Samantha and the circumstances surrounding the murder. It does feel right at the end, when they tell you the sentences given that Samantha was prosecuted and heavily sentenced for her role. With the focus on their relationship and then the murder itself it doesn’t dwell too much on Shak’s family life, nor on the gang culture or the other murderers involved. It’s not an apology for anything, and like so many similar stories (like the paralysis of 5 year old Thushara Kamaleswaran which is in the news right now as her attackers have been convicted) it’s so often people who are at the wrong place at the wrong time and utterly uninvolved in gangs who get hurt. Shak was involved with Samantha, but not with gangs at the time; he didn’t know what he was getting into when he met her and should not have been murdered for his mistake.
One Night (BBC1)
There’s a four part drama being shown Monday-Wednesday and Friday of this week, focusing on four different perspectives on a particular night when someone gets attacked on an estate. The first episode last night focused on Ted, a kitchen salesman, who lives in a very nice three floored-house not far from the estate. He’s cranky (as he describes himself) and highly strung. He and his wife are holding a bbq for his boss and the boss’s wife and is involved in two visits to the local co-op where he seems to buy new bags for life each time as he certainly wasn’t carrying them in but comes out with shopping in nice new looking ones (this really bugged me). Anyway, a girl (Rochelle) on the way back from the local school, and the day before her A-levels start, walks past his house and drops a crisp packet. He berates her and she laughs in his face. Ted then goes to the school to complain to the deputy head, picking Rochelle out of a year-book, and she gets suspended. Later, someone posts a used condom through his letter-box. Later still, someone throws a brick through his window. He thinks it is retaliation for complaining about Rochelle and finds a young (black) boy lurking outside who he beats up and locks into his shed. By coincidence, the boy is Rochelle’s brother, but he did not know anything about Rochelle’s suspension and says he did not throw the brick, but his brother is in a gang and will get his revenge now. Later on that night, as Ted realises that he shouldn’t have beaten up the boy (and with various other regrets), he goes down to the estate to return the boy’s phone and oyster card that he dropped in Ted’s garden. He then sees an incident off-camera which sounds like someone being beaten up and goes off camera to help. And then there’s a gun shot.
Jessica Hynes is in the programme but we haven’t come to her perspective or know who she is yet. I suspect she may be the mother of either Rochelle and her brothers, or a different young boy (a 13 year old) who I think was the one who threw the brick and starts off the programme by handing in a gun to the police – this is the morning after the ‘one night’ before and it’s the gun involved in the shooting. The programme itself was quite tedious; Ted and his wife were not sympathetic characters; unfortunately the best bits were those involving the kids and the gangs, which I suspect the other programmes will delve into so I expect it will pick up.
I wouldn’t particularly recommend either of the programmes mentioned in this blog post.It’s difficult to get much enjoyment from programmes about gang culture and murders, but they both make you think a little and remind you of Britain.