Director: Isaac Julien
It's London at the height of punk rock and the year of the Royal Jubilee,1977. Chris and Caz are two music fans with a pirate-radio show and a gig as house d.j.'s at a club that attracts white-punks and black soulboys and girls alike, with 'the crispest new tunes'.
When a gay friend is killed one night in a nearby park, it signals that maybe the summer of serious fun is coming to an end. Soon the mindless lads that tease Chris and Caz will become National Front supporters and long simmering racial tensions will explode. These are the days leading up to the Jubilee celebrations, and the bubble is about to burst.
Coming direct to us from Cannes, where it took off the Critics Week Prize, Isaac Julien's first feature (after two spectacular shorts that put him and the Sankofa Film and Video Collective on the map - The Passion of Remembrance and Looking For Langston, both shown at previous festivals), is on one hand a simple buddy film testing the loyalties between two close friends; and on the other, a vivid time capsule from a long forgotten era, (reminiscent of Richard Lowenstein's Dogs In Space).
Visually the film is alive and screaming, beautifully shot in rich hues that leap off the screen beside the funky soundtrack, but Julien's most significant achievement must be the way in which the film presents a pot-pourri of characters - black/white; male/female; straight/gay, as one cohesive whole without ever resorting to tokenism or stereotypes. The result is a vibrancy that's physically palpable and enormously attractive.
In Young Soul Rebels, Julien reclaims the status of Britain's black club culture which has so influenced the direction of popular music and fashion in the late 80s and early 90s. It's a fascinating companion piece to both Julian Temple's Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle and Derek Jarman's Jubilee, (whilst entirely unlike either) that signals the arrival of not just one but several bold new talents from the black British underground into the mainstream. (T.B)
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