Boyz n The Hood is one of the greatest coming-of-age movies about young black men.
It may take place in LA and focus on a group of black men growing up in one of the most notorious gang periods in America’s history, but it resonated with me when I watched it as a 12 year old with my younger brother (our parents thought we were asleep but myself and my brother always stayed up late watching cable TV. Back when life was simple).
Boyz N the Hood was the the only film that has made me cry. I remember going to bed after watching it, tears in my eyes. I lost my innocent view of the world that night.
Ever since then I have longed for the British version of Boyz n The Hood.
Until I watched Blue Story, I have been disappointed.
Kidulthood and Adulthood were too loud and unfocused.
The Intent and The Intent 2 glamorised the hood life in London rather than exploring it in any meaningful way.
Bullet Boy was mature in its storytelling. But while it’s a much better in quality than the films mentioned earlier, it was ultimately forgettable.
Top Boy suffers the same problem the Kidulthood films have – which is that it’s all very superficial. It’s like a love letter to the roadman life rather than a mature analysis of why some black men go down that path.
As I was losing hope that no British filmmaker will ever be able to make the British Boyz N the Hood, God finally answered my prayers.
A Blue Story is our British Boyz N the Hood.
It’s the most important black British film to ever have been made so far in the history of black British cinema.
Showing the hood life without glamorising the hood life
Directed by Rapman (real name Andrew Onwubolu), Blue Story is a masterful, thought-provoking and authentic examination of the postcode wars that have blighted London for more than twenty years.
It’s a tale that follows the lives of two black British boys who grow up as close friends but, due to living in two different parts of South London and a series of violent events, end up becoming bitter enemies with tragic consequences.
What elevates Blue Story above the likes of Kidulthood or TopBoy, are two factors: its authenticity and its superior storytelling.
Throughout my viewing of Blue Story, I had a stupid grin on my face. I recognised this London so clearly.
The language used by the characters, the banter, the atmosphere of south London colouring the big cinema screen. Not even Top Boy has captured, so authentically, how many black British boys grow up in London. It was a joy to watch my culture being so faithfully represented on the big screen without being watered down for middle-class white people.
Rapman has shown that he is a masterful storyteller with Blue Story. As someone who has read many fiction books and studied storytelling for most of my life, I can tell when a story is well-crafted. For the most part, Blue Story is an exceptional example of how to tell a story. It takes time to develop the friendship of its two main leads but even supporting characters are layered.
"It’s the most important black British film to ever have been made so far in the history of black British cinema."
Half-way through the film, we learn something crucial about one of the main character’s brother which completely changes how you look at him and yet makes so much sense. By the end of the film, he is a truly tragic character and a symptom of the pointless generational postcode wars that have destroyed so many lives and futures of black men.
Impressively, not once does Blue Story preach to its audience. In the hands of a lesser storyteller, Blue Story could have been a very preachy film but Rapman is a gifted writer. The actions of the characters, their dialogue and the choices they make tells the audience all they need to know about why these black boys defend and die for a postcode they don’t even own. Show not tell. Rapman achieves this effortlessly.
It’s not a perfect film. The central love story is cliché, a little underdeveloped and then becomes overdramatic. There is also a shock twist towards the end of the film from one of the minor characters which comes out of nowhere and doesn’t feel earned. But these are minor quibbles. A Blue Story is a British cinematic masterpiece.
Now it’s time to tell different stories about the black British experience
Blue Story is getting amazing reviews, causing unfortunate controversy and racking in the cash. This is the epitome of urban, gangster films about black British men.
For now, we don’t need anymore.
Honestly, Blue Story has pretty much covered this aspect of the black British culture and, for some time, we don’t need any more films exploring this theme.
Although it will surely be tempting to movie producers to create more stories about black British thugs, considering how well Blue Story has done financially and critics' positive response to the film, we don’t want such films to become the core narrative about black British men.
Yes America has a plethora of films exploring black men doing crime, but it also has a lot of television shows and movies about black people leading normal lives, falling in love and having family disputes. We need more stories that showcases black British men as complex individuals leading different types of lives.
We are not all roadman.
We are not all violent.
We are not all engaging in postcode wars.
We desperately need more stories that show black men struggling with the same everyday problems that white people deal with and how we overcome them. This kind of positive representation is crucial for the next generation of black British boys growing up in London.
Finally, we have our own Black British Boys N the Hood. But why stop there? Let’s have our own Black British Downtown Abbey or our own Black British sports film.
Let us show the world that Black British men are most than just lost boys in hoodies.