Shoot The Messenger follows one man's painful journey towards self-discovery. On the way he finds both his own attitudes and the expectations of his community challenged.Shoot The Messenger follows one man's painful journey towards self-discovery. On the way he finds both his own attitudes and the expectations of his community challenged.Shoot The Messenger follows one man's painful journey towards self-discovery. On the way he finds both his own attitudes and the expectations of his community challenged.
Joe Pescale (David Oyelowo) used to have a good job in IT but gave it all up to become a teacher and try to turn around the lives of the disadvantaged black kids he was teaching. He is the only black teacher in a school of predominantly black kids but he soldiers on regardless trying to make a difference. But it all goes wrong one day when he taps a troublesome pupil named Gemal (David Mnee) on the shoulder, which he blows out of proportion, costing him his job and the venomous spurn of the black community. After a lot of heckling and spurn, he becomes a paranoid recluse and starts imagining that all black people are evil and are out to get him.
As if to whip up controversy like a jelly cake, the original title of the film was going to be F*ck Black People before the conservative BBC decided that would be just a little too provocative and toned it down to the title we have. The film sparked a lot of outrage anyway and was even branded outright BNP propaganda. I can see how people drew this conclusion, as the film plays at times like a none stop rundown of all the various different bad aspects of black culture and the black community, from promiscuous single mothers with many different kids from different fathers to gun crime and failure in the school system. I can see how some may see it as depressing viewing, but I must say I never saw it this way. It's all played in a gritty, pull no punches way but it compels and enlightens you rather than weighing you down. And it's helped no end by Oyelowo in the lead role. The Spooks star delivers a fantastic performance, perfectly conveying paranoia and depression but also giving the film an energetic, enlightening and wryly humorous lead character who focuses on all the negative aspects of his culture in an angry and frustrated but also gleefully cynical way and even offers something of a tip on how things could change. The supporting cast also all shine in smaller roles but as he is carrying the film, he is the main player in making it what it is.
Powerful and hard-hitting, then, and certainly likely to offend some, but it's all (Like it or hate it) true and offers some tough food for thought for all the problems in the black community and the issues it needs to address. ****
- Sep 15, 2006