Bashment, the name given to reggae dancehall is also the title of British playwright Rikki Beadle-Blair’s latest film based on his play of the same name that revolves around the urban music scene in London, England.
The primary intent of Bashment is to promote the importance and possibility of all round equality, achieved by exploring attitudes towards bashment music’s controversially homophobic lyrics and their implementation by heterosexual black men. This exploration, conducted by Beadle-Blair is done through focal themes of race, sexuality and how attitudes surrounding the two are surprisingly alike.
Protagonist and wannabe MC, JJ (Joel Dommett) is the white guy in the Urban Slam Finals, facing off against rapping quartet ‘Ilford Illmanics’. The two initially clash over racial differences, the quartet condescend JJ’s passion and admiration for urban culture, taunting him for being a supposed ignorant poser and things take a violent turn when the Illmanics discover that JJ’s boyfriend, Orlando (Marcus Kai) is in attendance. JJ and Orlando’s lives are permanently changed following the aftermath of the Illmanics’ horrifyingly physical act of homophobia.
The bulk of the film is then centred on the Illmanics’ time in prison and understanding the reasoning behind their attitudes and songs while JJ and friends adjust to their new lives, trying to come to terms with the fact that a culture they had long admired had mercilessly turned on them.
The poetical flow of the rapper dialect, intonation and rhythm used in the dialogue of Bashment is somewhat reminiscent of Shakespeare’s tone, this dialogic evolution although at times is a struggle to understand (again, much like Shakespeare!) is suited to the philosophical and anthropological monologues and messages the film attempts to convey. The focal message – the idea that everyone is equal is uniquely presented by Beadle-Blair through the notion that “everyone is a nigga and everyone is a queer”.
Through his characters Beadle-Blair uses the terms “nigga” and “queer” to unite people by using them as representing terms for hate and insecurity, in that by hating, everyone is a “nigga” – “that’s what nigga’s do, nigga’s hate” – as expressed by Ilford Illmanic’s Pimp Party, and that by being insecure, everyone is a “queer” – “you wonder what earthly use you are” – Sam (Arnie Hewitt). By altering these terms and their connotations from segregating labels to universal feelings experienced by all, regardless of race or sexuality, Beadle-Blair creates this arguably provocative, yet explained notion.
Despite Beadle-Blair’s relevant and through evoking message, it’s messily incorporated into the film, and is presented through characters who are nothing more than exaggerated stereotypes placed in unrealistic circumstances and situations. The representatives of the black culture sporting golden teeth and resembling Tupac, while the queer characters are stereotypically camp with awful fashion sense. This garish combination unfortunately creates a cheapness in the film that makes it unrelatable and demeaning of the intended message. The acting displayed by the cast isn’t fantastic, something that isn’t helped by an even less than fantastic level of character development, with what little development there is (one of the Ilford Illmanic’s discovers a penchant for cross-dressing) being horribly unrealistic. As a result of no real progression, both by way of character and plot the film really drags, with important situations left unexplored and unexplained while other seemingly minor ones were repeated and unnecessarily expanded.
It’s a real shame that the film is filled with such tacky content, as the initial idea and storyline is full of the potential to create a profound impact on the audience through its message if only made grittier and more realistic. Nonetheless it is recommendable to those of you who are looking for an easy to watch film with a somewhat sophisticated plotline.
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