Birmingham Gangs

I finally managed to see One Mile Away, Penny Woolcock’s documentary about Birmingham gangs, which I missed at the Flatpack Festival but caught up with on Channel 4. It’s one of those films powered by faith and conviction, where hours of talk and filming go on because the person in charge believes that the final result will be worth it, though that is often seriously in doubt. It tracks the attempts of two  members of separate gangs, who agree to try to arrange a truce. Each has to persuade their own members, and one has a lot more success than the other. The filming tracks the process, but also affects it. At one point Woolcock is clearly sceptical that this next session will be worth it. So many times, she’s been to gang meets, only to hear members say that they won’t say anything while the camera’s running. There’s a tough logic there, but it doesn’t make for easy filming. But it’s a wonderful portrait of the difficulty of trying to do something new, break a violent pattern in the interests of a more positive future.