One Mile Away
One Mile Away is the latest authored documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Penny Woolcock. It is a follow up to her hard-hitting, controversial gang crime film 1 Day (2009), which starred active members of Birmingham’s two most notorious gangs, The Burger Bar Boys and the Johnson Crew.
This documentary follows gang member and star of 1 Day, Dylan Duffus, as he forms a tenuous alliance with a member of rival gang, Shabba, in an effort to put an end to a feud so old and so vague that no one remembers the cause (other than their different postcodes). Nonetheless, the rift has caused innumerable beatings, stabbings, shootings and ultimately, murders.
The scenario put forward in the documentary is created by Penny as she gets the gang members together in a hotel room to start the peace process, having been consistently and deeply involved along the way. Her interest in the armistice comes from a friendship with Dylan and first-hand knowledge and experience of the violence over a number of years. This turns the film into a Gonzo-style piece of journalism, with heightened reality: Dylan’s articulate voiceover, the interspersed scenes of the gang members rapping to camera about their plight, and the almost poetic gang slang all contribute towards creating a mesmerizing, lyrical exploration of the maniacal world of Birmingham’s gang youth.
What starts out as an attempt at an Ireland-styled peace process (Shabba and Dylan consult Jonathan Powell, who brokered the Good Friday Agreement) turns into a diatribe about the way under-privileged black youth are treated by the police and the system, with the August 2011 riots as the backdrop to the second half of the documentary. This increases the scope of the film, making it relevant to the whole country, and here the documentary triumphs. It explains, in terms everyone can understand, the feelings and conversely the lack of feeling that the youth of big cities experience in a world of opportunity that holds them back – and for those who can’t understand the parlance there are intermittent translations at the bottom of the screen.
One Mile Away is released in selected cinemas on 29th March 2013.
Watch the trailer for One Mile Away here: