Black Resistance Screening List: “Shoot The Messenger”

Still from "Shoot The Messenger" Film. Photo Courtesy of BBC

Watch “Shoot The Messenger” Film

Shoot the Messenger is a BBC film written by Sharon Foster and directed by Ngozi Onwurah. The film aired in 2006, receiving a mixed reception. The film is an extremely provocative story that follows a young Black man in his own experience with racial self-hatred. It is clear that the filmmakers consider negative stereotypes a realistic hurdle to be crossed and shamelessly embrace them. However, if the satirically negative outlook of the film can be tolerated, there may be some worthwhile messages to absorb, including an analysis of the prison system in the U.K. and its treatment of Black citizens.

Joe, the protagonist, is a teacher. Joe quit his former lucrative job because he wanted to direct and impact positive change in his community.  He was tired of  the general public assigning blame for the problems in their community. He wanted to proactively work on solving those issues. So, as a teacher, he planned to give excessive detention to at-risk Black students as a means of “enforced education.”

Despite Joe’s good intentions, his method of imprisonment and his need to fix young Black boys led to the alienation of his ‘worst’ student, resulting in the student falsely accusing Joe of physical abuse. This scandal then pushes the Black community to turn against Joe, causing him to lose his job, and shortly after, descending into madness with the realization that Black people are the cause of all of his problems. After realizing what he needs to do, Joe is revitalized and works his way back to his original mission: fight community issues head on.

Still from "Shoot The Messenger" Film. Photo Courtesy of BBC

David Oyelowo, Joe, and Nikki Amuka-Bird, Heather, of “Shoot The Messenger” Film. Photo Courtesy of BBC

The student who initiates Joe’s disgrace keeps appearing in Joe’s life over time. Though Joe first responds with petty revenge, he eventually realizes the flaws in his past actions. Joe did not make an attempt to reach out to his troubled students outside of keeping them confined to the school. We learn from his student later that Joe was not well liked by the Black kids, with the looming question, “why was we never good enough like we were?”

The incarceration statistics in the U.K. show an alarming parallel to Joe’s approach for policing his students, and it tends to raise the same question at the larger scale of society.

By Elliott Anderson

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3 Comments

  1. Maryam Alkhaldi

     /  October 8, 2014

    Dear Elliott Anderson,
    You are bringing a very important issue in the society. The truth is bitter, and sometimes movies are obligated to reflect this bitter reality in order to highlight issues in community.
    I would like to mention a brilliant essay called “Just Walk in By” by Brent Staples. Sadly, Staples experienced an unfair judgment from the pedestrians just because he is a black male. In fact, People would go to the other side of the street whenever he would walked, and that was the bitter reality of his daily life. Stable was not able to change his identity, and tried to find ways to fit in the society. He lastly found a tentative solution and started to “ whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi and the more popular classical composers”(Staples) in order to make the people who judged him badly comfortable, and they did. Furthermore, sometimes individuals could be responsible for the community’s mistakes, and try to solve these mistakes alone in order to fit in the society again.

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  2. Maryam Alkhaldi

     /  October 8, 2014

    Dear Elliott Anderson,
    You are bringing a very important issue in the society. The truth is bitter, and sometimes movies are obligated to reflect this bitter reality in order to highlight issues in the community.
    I would like to mention a brilliant essay called “Just Walk in By” by Brent Staples. Sadly, Staples experienced an unfair judgment from the pedestrians just because he was a black male. In fact, People would go to the other side of the street whenever he would walked, and that was the bitter reality of his daily life. Stable was not able to change his identity, and tried to find ways to fit in the society. He lastly found a tentative solution and started to “ whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi and the more popular classical composers”(Staples) in order to make the people who judged him badly comfortable, and they did. Furthermore, sometimes individuals could be responsible for the community’s mistakes, and try to solve these mistakes alone in order to fit in the society again.

    Like

    Reply
  3. Danielle Palmer

     /  December 9, 2014

    I will definitely need to check out this movie! I am currently working on a report that details the criminalization for the black youth in America (particularly males). Unfortunately, I cannot say that I am surprised by the fact that this same criminalization is reflected in the UK’s prison system and the treatment of its Black citizens. Just like the protagonist Joe did not try to reach out and engage with his students (aside from keeping them detained in school), the same flawed methods can be seen in our prison systems. Instead of addressing the socioeconomic root of the problem in marginalized communities, society and government’s solution seems be resorting to a police state that just continues the cycle of issues for many minorities. I think it is admirable that Joe wanted to proactive about the issues of the community, but I think to be truly effective we need to look at progressive and creative solutions to address problems created my failed methods.

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