BBC: white season

BBC Two Winter/Spring 2008
White Season:

The White season features a series of films that shine the spotlight on the white working-class in Britain today. It examines why some feel increasingly marginalised, and explores possible reasons behind the rise in popularity of far-right politics in some sections of this community.

As "white trash" and "chav" become commonplace insults, the films explore the complex mix of feelings that lead some people to feel under siege and that their very sense of self is being brought into question.

And, as newly arrived immigrant populations move in, the season examines the conflict between the communities and explores the economic and psychological tensions.

White Girl

Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House) stars in Abi Morgan's compelling film about an inspirational 11-year-old girl, Leah, and her family's relocation to an entirely Muslim community in Bradford. A provocative and emotional drama, it explores the hope as well as the tension that can arise when two very different cultures collide.

Leaving her home in Leeds and a broken relationship with Stevie, Debbie begins a new life with her three children – but being the only white family in a wholly Asian community was never part of the plan.

For Leah, the feeling of isolation is heightened at school when she discovers that she and her siblings are the only white kids. But Leah views the Muslim culture and faith with innocent fascination, finding a refuge of calm and safety which is in sharp contrast to the pain and sadness at home.

Befriending Yasmin, her young Asian neighbour, and with the gentle guidance of teachers at school, Leah learns that her new world is not as alien as she first feared.

However, nothing prepares Debbie for the shock of seeing her daughter wearing a hijab. With Leah's grandmother, Sonia, up in arms and Stevie back on the scene, the consequences are explosive – for Debbie and Leah alike.

Starring Anna Maxwell Martin as Debbie, with newcomer Holly Kenny as Leah, Daniel Mays as Stevie and Melanie Hill as Leah's grandmother, White Girl is a tender exploration of Islam through the eyes of a child, from the writer of the Bafta and RTS Award-winning Sex Traffic.

Last Orders

Last Orders tells the story of the embattled Wibsey Working Men's Club in the city of Bradford.

Once regarded as the "backbone of the nation", white working-class communities in the UK now often feel themselves the object of ridicule. Considering themselves forgotten by a Labour Government, which many people in these communities think is reluctant to acknowledge their existence, many white working-class people feel as if they have fallen off the edge of the policy table, with the smoking ban the latest example.

The Wibsey Club has been operating at a loss for several years and members' worries for their club mirror larger anxieties. With high unemployment and a perception that recent Asian immigrants receive the lion's share of Government benefits, members feel that their very community is under threat and that racial tensions could erupt at any time.

Bafta- and Emmy-nominated director Henry Singer follows up his critically acclaimed 9/11 film, The Falling Man, by spending several months in one white working-class community whose story reveals much about the breakdown of social cohesion in 21st-century Britain.

All White In Barking

In 2003, film-maker Marc Isaacs made a Greenlight Award-winning film for BBC Two about refugees, economic migrants and the English in Calais. Now, four years on, he explores similar themes in a new context – Barking, East London – in a Storyville special for the White season.

Lifetime Barking residents Susan and Jeff have never said hello to their Nigerian neighbours, insisting that "they are not our people". Dave is so incensed by the influx of non-white faces to Barking that he becomes a BNP activist – yet both his daughters have relationships with the very people he is lashing out against.

Meanwhile, African Betty and Holocaust survivor Monty form an unusual relationship based on laughter and affection, despite disapproving stares.

The film-maker is an unseen, but prominent, presence, questioning prejudices and prying at preconceptions with remarkable results to produce a charming and often funny examination of modern attitudes in an increasingly multicultural Britain.

The Poles Are Coming

Poland wants its Poles back. But, after one of the biggest migrations in recent history, are we really ready to let them go? Tim Samuels, award-winning documentary-maker and the man responsible for forming The Zimmers, takes an entertainingly subversive look at the reality of immigration in Middle England.

Listening to some locals, it would appear that the city of Peterborough is being pushed to breaking point by a massive influx of Eastern Europeans. Some want the Poles, and others, to go home. So does the city of Gdansk – once birthplace of the Solidarity movement that helped defeat Communism, but which now can't find enough workers to fill its shipyards or build its football stadium for Euro 2012.

Now Gdansk's leaders are heading to Peterborough to plead with their countrymen to come back. The programme asks what would happen to our economy if they did leave and whether any will be tempted away. Immersing himself in the lives of Polish immigrants and some discontented local neighbours, Tim gets under the skin of one of Britain's thorniest issues.

Rivers Of Blood

Forty years ago, Enoch Powell, the maverick Conservative MP, gave a speech on immigration in which he predicted a future of racial strife in Britain.

The "rivers of blood" speech – so-called because he quoted the Roman poet Virgil, saying: "I see the Tiber foaming with much blood" – outraged the political establishment, who considered it both racist and inflammatory.

However, the speech struck a chord with the public who wrote to him in their thousands, and London's dockers came out on strike in support.

In this fascinating and intriguing film, Denys Blakeway assesses the impact of the speech – arguably one of the most important in Britain in the last century – and traces its subsequent effect on immigration policy and the rise of multiculturalism in the UK.
Daily Mail:
The BBC is to risk controversy with a season of programmes about a white working class "under siege" ...

Conservative MP David Davies, who is a member of the home affairs select committee, attacked the BBC for coming late to the issue.

He said: "If they are under siege its partly the result of 20 to 30 years of multiculturalist policies that the BBC has been at the forefront of championing.

"The white working class have been ignored by the establishment for many decades ...

BBC2 controller Roly Keating said he hoped the programmes would provoke debate about race and immigration.

He said: "'This is a very topical issue with debate raging in the media, amongst politicians, community leaders and our audiences. It's the right time for BBC TWO to shine a light on some of the communities involved, give viewers the chance to consider these issues in depth and join in an informed debate.

"Some of the people in the programmes do have controversial opinions on race and the multi-culturalism in the area they live in, but we are not advocating their views and will be careful to ensure that there is balance in the range of opinions and experiences across the season ...

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