Director and #EverydayChangemaker Iggy LDN’s Lush Film Funded piece Velvet is now live on Lush Player. Here, Iggy gives further insight into his views on the current socio-political climate. “[This] not only affects families, but whole communities. It is this sort of crime that cannot go unheard.”
Any death of a young, black British male evokes a terrible sadness in me. A sadness that has always been viewed unnecessary and unfair. I am lucky to say I have never lost a family member to knife crime, and so I guess the feeling of losing someone has always been remote. The cost of my own sadness is incomparable to the sadness that is felt by those who have had to pick up the pieces; the mothers and fathers who have had to continue without their children by their side. This cost is something that I have yet to pay, and I hope I never have to, but for many families, it is a sad reality.
The first person that I ever lost to knife crime was a schoolmate called Ailton Campos De Oliveira. I was 17 at the time. Ailton had been stabbed as a result of a postcode war and died in hospital two days later from a knife wound to his right lung. Ailton was the boldest, funniest person I ever met. His jokes would literally raise your spirits even if you were having a rubbish day at sixth form, or if the teachers were getting on your nerves. It was his unconditional way of seeing the brighter side in things that absolutely astonished everyone; from the students to their parents and even the teachers. He had this uncanny ability to cope no matter the circumstances.
When Harry Uzoka died at the beginning of this year, it felt as though a bandaid had been ripped off and the sadness that I had felt when I was 17 had resurfaced all over again. Here was a young man at the prime of his career, a role model to the people within the community and a supermodel to the rest of the world. I, as well as many others, looked up to him as a source of inspiration and hoped that one day I could do monumental things with my talents, like he did.
At first you don't think it's real; you get messages and you see images up on social media but you don’t join up the dots until you see his face all over the newspapers, you get calls, you are forced to open your eyes and face the truth. Harry was stabbed on 11th September in Shepherds Bush following an escalated fight. It is unfortunate to know that we will never be able to experience the joys of these two young men ever again.
And yet the cost that has always been ingrained in my mind is the anonymity of these men once they lose their lives. This year commenced the biggest rise in knife crime to ever be recorded and we saw the same story on the news over and over again:
“17-year old student dies“
“ Young boy stabbed in east London“
“Gang attacks young teen“
The same story but just wrapped up in a different piece of contextual ribbon. Time and time again we see these headlines and forget about the lives that predated these headlines. We forget about the type of people that they wanted to become. We forget that they had a favourite show or favourite sport. We lose all of this when we whittle their lives down to statistics, campaign strategies and news chat. I wonder what cost this has had on the families of these young men. I wanted to rewrite such a failing and hurtful narrative. I wanted to stop feeling helpless.
And so I made a film which touches upon that grief. VELVET is a short, 4 minute narrative dance film aiming to shed light on losing a son from a mother’s perspective. I aimed to rewrite the narrative of young black males automatically being linked to gang culture and crime in London. The film is about a mother who can't control the happenings of the outside world, but works desperately to keep her household in order, and that means keeping her son away from trouble. Her son, a young 21-year old, wants to go out to see his mates. He asks his mother if he can go out and his mother says no - this starts a heated argument. After a while, his mother gives in and allows him to leave the house. The rest of the film illustrates a mother’s intuition as she feels him get stabbed and slowly lose his life.
Like every mother, there is an element of fear when your child grows up and wants to be a man, but it becomes especially difficult for the mothers who do not have the choice in where they raise their children. This film pays tribute to those mothers. In such a socio-political climate, more needs to be said about the ongoing murders, which not only affect families but whole communities. It is this sort of crime that cannot go unheard.
I hope this film raises awareness to the breadth of lives that we lose to knife crime, but also reminds us of our collective responsibility to put an end to it once and for all.
Watch Velvet now.