Riot-hit London neighborhood turns to film

Associated Press Modified: May 3, 2012 at 9:31 am •  Published: May 3, 2012
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LONDON (AP) — Isaac Densu lives in Broadwater Farm, a large, concrete public housing project in Tottenham, the gritty district where last year's British riots began. Unemployment is high and young people face many temptations to get into trouble.

But Densu thinks he knows what might help: A good movie.

The film-loving 26-year-old says watching movies can help his neighbors expand their horizons and embrace creativity rather than violence.

The idea was tested Wednesday, when hundreds of Broadwater Farm residents attended a free screening of "La Haine" ("Hate"), a powerful 1995 film about alienated youth on the impoverished high-rise fringes of Paris.

Some questioned the wisdom of showing a movie about brutality and gun violence in an area scarred by both. Not Densu, who helped organize the event.

"(I hope it'll be) a springboard for people to redirect the hate they feel for the establishment," he said.

"The main problem with disadvantaged areas is that they are little pockets that are disengaged from society," he added. "It's about breaking them out of that shell."

To most people in Britain, Broadwater Farm is a byword for urban deprivation. In 1985, it saw riots in which a policeman was stabbed to death. The clashes became an emblem of tensions between London police and the capital's black community.

It also was the home of Mark Duggan, the man whose fatal police shooting last August was the spark for riots that began a mile away in Tottenham and raged for four nights — Britain's worst civil unrest in a generation.

Residents say despite the August riots, the area has improved immensely since 1985, its high levels of poverty accompanied by a strong sense of community.

Still, there was some trepidation about showing a film that — while vivid, punchy and at times funny — offers a beak view of urban deprivation.

The film's director, Mathieu Kassovitz, said the concerns were misplaced. He said the film was being shown "not to raise chaos but to raise consciousness."



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