Film fans defend Blue Story after claims it sparked violence

(left to right) Stephen Odubola, Rapman and Michael Ward arriving at the premiere of Blue Story at the Curzon Mayfair cinema
(left to right) Stephen Odubola, Rapman and Michael Ward arriving at the premiere of Blue Story at the Curzon Mayfair cinema in London.

Cinema-goers have defended gang film Blue Story against accusations it encouraged violence, including a mass brawl in Birmingham that left seven police officers injured.

Viewers said the movie has been unfairly blamed for the fight which involved young people with machetes, because the film’s over-riding message is to warn youngsters away from gang culture.

Blue Story, which follows the lives of two boys caught up on opposite sides of a postcode war, was pulled from Vue cinemas after the fight involving around 100 people at Star City in Birmingham on Saturday evening.

The cinema chain said it pulled Blue Story as a safety precaution after “25 significant incidents” were reported at its venues within 24 hours of the film’s release.

Videograb showing police officers outside the Star City cinema in Birmingham
Videograb showing police officers outside the Star City cinema in Birmingham (Rachel Allison)

Showcase also cancelled showings at its venues, but reinstated it on Monday night after “careful consideration and discussions with the distributor”.

But the film has polarised opinions on whether it should be allowed to run.

Beverley Hurn and her daughter Georgia Birkbeck, who saw Blue Story at an Odeon cinema in north London, said they did not believe it was responsible for encouraging violence.

Mrs Hurn, 52, said: “What happened (in Birmingham) was terrible, but it went against the message of the film.

“The film was about how young boys do get into this gang lifestyle, and showing them the consequences, and they should stop.

“It was showing how stupid you are for trying to be a big hard man, and how gang culture affects family members – the mums, the partners and the girlfriends.

“It was showing you gain nothing from that lifestyle.”

Mrs Birkbeck, 25, who lives in Camden with her three young children, said: “It was incredibly moving and hard-hitting, especially for us because we’ve both got sons.

“It’s silly to think people are going to the cinema to start trouble – the film had nothing to do with the kind of violence that went on in Birmingham.”

Anwar Semlali, 21, from London, agreed Blue Story has been unfairly associated with violent incidents and said the decision by some cinemas to cancel it was “linked to race.”

Mr Semlali said: “It absolutely should not have been pulled from cinemas – it’s just completely unacceptable.

“The director behind it is up-and-coming, and he’s from south London, and it’s not uncommon for these kind of inconveniences to happen to this kind of demographic of people – black rappers.

“It would not be completely wrong to bring race into it.”

Another man who plans to watch Blue Story pointed out its 15 age rating meant many of those involved in the Birmingham brawl, including a 13-year-old girl who was arrested, were too young to have been allowed to watch it.

The writer and director of Blue Story, Andrew Onwubolu, said his film was about “love not violence” and said he hoped the incident was not an “indictment” of the film.

However, other viewers supported Vue’s decision to stop showing the film, saying Blue Story has fallen victim to its own success in showing a realistic story on gang violence.

Mark Eliades, 61, from Watford, said: “It’s more credible and relevant to kids watching it than other violent films.

“Game Of Thrones has a hell of a lot of violence, but you don’t have kids coming out beheading people.

“It’s because they can relate to it. It’s their age range, it’s something that’s real and they can see themselves, and they can copy it.

“Does the film reflect society, or does society reflect the film?”

Mark Herd, 60, from Barnet, drew comparisons between Blue Story and violence he remembers breaking out following the release of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange in the 1970s.

Mr Herd said: “I don’t blame the cinemas for stopping showing it. I would watch it in the safety of my own home.

“This kind of film crops up every now and then, and something like this will happen again.”

The Odeon cinema chain did not stop showings of the film when competitors Vue and Showcase pulled it from their venues.

A spokesman from Odeon said: “We are aware of reports of violence at cinemas which have been linked to the film Blue Story.

“The safety of our guests and colleagues is our number-one priority.

“We have a number of security measures in place for this film, and are currently reviewing these along with our programming, in order to continue to put the safety of our guests first.”

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