As part of Black History Month, the Nottingham New Art Exchange screened Generation Revolution in collaboration with the University of Nottingham. The film was followed by a Q and A with the films’ directors and a member of the Nottingham branch of Black Lives Matter.
The film looked at the activism of young people in London in recent years. It focused on two groups: the London Black Revs (standing for revolutionaries not reverends, a bit of comic relief in the film) and R Movement. As someone interested in politics it was extremely inspiring to see people even younger than me trying to make a difference and counter what they saw as the negative aspects of society.
One of the film’s protagonists, Tay from R Movement, was only 18 years old and yet he was giving talks on how to deal with the police tactic ‘Stop and Search’ and organising aid packages for homeless people. As the directors remarked in the Q and A, these young people were incredibly knowledgable about issues facing disadvantaged groups in society. Watching their interactions with those they were helping in the street was extremely heartwarming and no doubt left people in the audience thinking of what they could do.
Cassie Quarless, co-director, explained that both the London Black Revs and R movement were ‘driven by the idea of being intersectional feminists’ and that those seeing ‘movements led by people of colour don’t assume black and brown people organise around, for example, the homeless’.
The film started with the radical action taken against anti-homeless strikes outside a supermarket, and included protests against the killing of Eric Garner, the gentrification of Brixton and the refugee crisis. It showed preparations to events, how things were planned and also, by the end of the film, disputes over the direction of action. Usayd Younis, co-director, noted that they observed a shift in the thinking of many of the activists, who wanted to begin basing direct action on the needs of the community.
A shock real-life twist near the end led me to have more questions about those the film had followed but the directors assured the audience that the film has recently been updated to include the rise of Black Lives Matter UK and the routes of some of the members of the other groups. Quarless and Younis also emphasised that they wanted the film to be positive, to encourage people to become active, and to document the amazing work these young activists were engaging in. The film did however, capture some very emotive moments, such as the impact of ‘heavy-handed’ police tactics, which some may find distressing.
The final words in the film were from a former member of the Black Revs, who stated that now he has the knowledge that the world is such a messed up place, he cannot stop being involved in resistance movements till the day he dies. It was a powerful reminder that those who want change must act, and those that do may be forced to sacrifice everything.
Yasemin Craggs Mersinoglu