Riots Anniversary: Documentary takes a closer look at the causes

The filmmakers. Pic: Fully Focused

London will emerge from the hysteria of the Olympics this week into the midst of reflection, one year on from last year’s riots.

One group of young people didn’t wait a year to reflect. Just four days into the riots the youth steering group of Fully Focused Community got together with their cameras. Taking a deeper look at society they created the documentary ‘Riot from Wrong’ and on August 9, a year to the day from the start of filming, it will screen at the BFI.

The documentaries director and founder of the youth focused production house, Teddy Nygh, took time out from acting in dystopian films such as Adulthood to direct the in-depth documentary.

Hailing from all corners of London, including the east, the Fully Focused youngsters became concerned that what they were hearing about Mark Duggan – whose shooting by police is often cited as the cause of the rioting –  ran contrary to what they were hearing in the media. Frustrated too by the portrayal of the rioters and their communities, they took the decision to begin filming.

A experienced film maker, Nygh knew that making a film with no funding and without any planning would be a difficult road and said it “wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s a decision we had to make.”

Armed only with their cameras the group went in search of a solution. “No one was asking ‘why?’ Why do people think this is ok and justifiable?” said Nygh. “We wanted to go out and have a deeper conversation about what was going on and not to allow British society to sweep their issues under the carpet.”

What they’ve made is a film that takes an unprecedented, detailed look at the causes of the riots.

Having initially produced 45 hours of footage, the final cut features some of the 60 interviews they conducted. There are conversations with the brother and aunt of Mark Duggan and insights into the motivations of rioters.

Also included are comments from victims and community activists Stafford Scott and Jason Nwansi, journalist Polly Toynbee and David Lammy MP and previously unseen footage of police attempting to resuscitate Mr Duggan after he was shot.

A still from the documentary. Pic: Fully Focused

Those who have seen the film are positive: “One thing I learned from Riot from Wrong is that 14 young people can get closer to the truth than 90 per cent of working journalists,” says Guardian journalist, Dan Hancox.

A review by the Institute of Race Relations said: “This is a film that must be celebrated because it challenges stereotypes of young people and restores their humanity.”

The positive reception has yet to translate to widespread distribution, although Nygh has big ambitions for the film, having entered it for a number of film festivals. It is also about to embark on an educational tour of the UK including screenings in youth offending services and prisons.

When asked who he’d most like to show the film to, he said: “I’m tempted to say some of the higher ranking politicians, but I’m not sure it’d make any difference.”

Ideally, the ‘educational tour’ would extend to organisations who work with young people and to those in the Home Office, Parliament and City Hall: “The goal is for the film to be seen to as many people as possible.”

In making the film, Nygh learnt that many people allow the media to shape their view of the world, to a larger degree than he thought. Those in the audience who’ve arrived with preconceived ideas of the riots, have left the cinema with a different view of the events.

This was demonstrated most clearly when it came to the representation of Mark Duggan, portrayed in the media as a ‘gangster’ after his shooting by police.

Nygh said: “When I spoke to Mark Duggan’s aunt, she said that he died at 29, and he’d nearly made it to this 30th birthday without a criminal record. He was from the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham and nearly made it to thirty without a criminal record – that says something about him.”

The Broadwater Farm Estate, home to some of London’s worst rioting in 1985, remains one of the capital’s poorest areas despite numerous regeneration initiatives.

The filmmakers haven’t allow their peers an easy ride – the film forces young people and rioters to think about the real causes of the disorder.

It’s not without irony that Fully Focused is also feeling the pressure of cuts to youth and social services identified by some in the film as a driver for the unrest.

But the process of making the film has instilled Nygh and Fully Focused with the motivation to continue their work. The young people involved in making the film are all still part of Fully Focused, some part-time whilst they work or attend university. A new batch of youngsters has been recruited into the team.

Nygh says that making Riot from Wrong has been an amazing experience for everyone involved: “It’s a testament to what people can do when they work together with a shared belief.”

The film is showing at BFI on 9 August and the Roundhouse on 23 August. EastLondonLines will be reviewing the documentary later in the week.
For more information about the film, visit:

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