Gangs of England
The secrets to the successful of the sixth feature by one of Britain’s most interesting filmmakers lies, above all, in the masterly performances by 13 year-old Thomas Turgoose and Stephen Graham (Gangs of New York), the powerful narrative, the accurate reconstruction of the 1980s, and in the prudent analogy between the senseless Falklands War and today’s war in Iraq.
According to Meadows, the film’s story is mostly autobiographical, to which he further incorporated personal aspects of Turgoose’s life as well. In the summer of 1983, young Shaun, whose father has died in the war with Argentina over possession of the Falkland Islands, joins a group of Doc Marten-wearing, ska- and reggae-listening skinheads who drink beer and commit petty acts of vandalism. Until, that is, Combo arrives, fresh out of jail and wanting to radicalise the violence and give the gang a political bent, that of the National Front. Shaun thus finds himself between having to choose whether to accept true violence or walk away from it.
"It is the story of a young man who has to face the loss of his father in the historical context in which I grew up", said the director. "In those years, in the small towns and suburbs, you gained status through violence. I saw the skinheads as an army of strong men and being a part of that community made me feel protected. When I came face to face with reality, that I was becoming a criminal, I stopped ".
Having been a part of the skinhead movement, Meadows succeed in decodifying it, to present it in a way never before seen on film, and very different from American History X or Romper Stomper. "The original skinheads had an enormous love of black music and black and white kids worked side by side in the shipyards, they weren’t proud of the politicians, they were against Thatcher more than they were against blacks and Asians. It was a summer in my life when I thought I was making a difference. Some kids now sit playing on the Playstation rather than having that summer ".
(Translated from Italian)
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