Let’s start with apologies to all those expecting the usual comprehensive work from the JumpCut staff, you won’t it find here. You’ll find a lot of unanswered questions, because we don’t know a lot at the moment, and the perpetrators of this stupidity aren’t exactly being forthcoming from their indefensible position.

On Sunday, 24th of November 2019 Vue Cinemas banned the screening of Blue Story at any of its cinemas.

This is stupid.

For many, many reasons.

For those that are unaware, Blue Story is a co-production between writer and director Rapman, and those well-known incitors of dissent and unrest… BBC Films… I’ve seen it. It does not revel in gang culture or violence. It does not incite lawlessness. Goodfellas gives a more positive portrayal of the ‘criminal lifestyle’ than Blue Story does. I know this because I’ve seen it, has the person who took the decision to ban it? Or did they ban it without giving it the basic decency of 91 minutes of their life first?

So, why did they ban it? On Saturday, 23rd of November 2019, there was an incident of violent disorder at Vue’s venue in Birmingham, in the Star City complex. Details are still unclear as to where this disorder began, but the important line from the news is, “Five teenagers were arrested, including a girl aged 13, a boy and girl both aged 14 and a 19-year-old man. They were all held on suspicion of assaulting police. In addition, a boy aged 14 was held on suspicion of obstructing police.” Blue Story was given a classification of “15” by the BBFC. Let’s be clear, 80% of those arrested could not legally see the film… unless Vue is in breach of the law… So why was the film banned?

Stephen Odubola and Karla-Simone Spence in Blue Story (2019)

Blue Story is set in London and is set around ‘postcode gangs’, so why did this happen in Birmingham? Are people in Birmingham more violent than anywhere else in the UK? Why didn’t this happen in London between gangs related to the areas depicted in the film? Or is the whole thing a knee-jerk reaction without any basis in reality? I can understand increasing security if there’s a legitimate concern, but this decision didn’t come from the police, the council responsible for licensing the cinema, but faceless suits at Vue. Why couldn’t security be increased? Or a police presence be in force? Or daytime only screenings? And why pull the film from the entire chain? Is this film so dangerous that even a single screening will cause the people of Merthyr Tydfil to lose their minds?

And why is this film the straw that broke the camel’s back? The character of The Joker has an actual bodycount to his name after Aurora, Colorado in 2012. Did that stop Vue from screening Joker recently? Wait, the screening in Aurora was The Dark Knight Rises, a film not featuring the Joker, so they banned all Batman films, right? No Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, or Justice League for Vue cinema-goers, right? 

Interestingly, the cinema itself has been involved in more deaths than Blue Story. Yes, you read that right. In March of 2018, a man was killed by a faulty footrest at the very same cinema. So for those keeping score at home, the current kill count is, Vue Cinemas: 1, Blue Story: 0.

Not that you’d know anything about this from Vue themselves. As I write this the most recent post on their Twitter feed is an anniversary post about Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Not a word in case you’ve already booked tickets and are heading on a long and expensive trip to the cinema. Will people be getting compensation for travel costs when they show up and Vue tell them their screening is cancelled? Doubt it, and the people dealing with the anger of customers will be the poor staff on zero-hours contracts, not the suits sat at home. Interestingly, over twelve hours after the decision was made to ban the film, it’s still advertised on the Vue website with all the screening times intact. You can’t book, but this is down to a “400 Bad Request” error, they can’t even ban a film competently.

Films don’t make people violent. Art doesn’t make people violent. Sometimes violent people take imagery from films, but the films aren’t the reason for crime. Taxi Driver wasn’t banned after John Hinckley attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981, nor was Jodie Foster banned from acting. It wasn’t the film’s fault, nor was it Foster’s fault. It was Hinckley’s fault. How does the same logic not apply?

Finally, it’s election season in the UK, and these events will kickstart to culture wars aspect of the campaign. Art will once again become a political football to be kicked in whatever way fits a particular candidate’s preferred message. A word of advice, shun the opinion of anyone who can’t even be bothered to spend 91 minutes appraising the film for themselves.