Dir: Penny Woolcock, UK 2012, 91 mins
“When people in normal society get murdered, there’s whole campaigns, there’s rewards put up. But when people in my community get murdered, it don’t even make it to the news; you’re just dead.” ~ Dylan
After making hip hop musical One Day in Handsworth, filmmaker Penny Woolcock stayed in touch with her non-professional cast and was drawn back to make a documentary about the gang culture that blights north Birmingham. One Mile Away follows the efforts of two men, Dylan Duffus (the lead in One Day) and Shabba, to negotiate some kind of pause in the postcode wars between Johnson Crew (B6) and Burger Bar Boys (B21).
The size of this task is quickly made clear, as the film sketches out the way violence has become a part of the landscape: “this is the norm now, it’s not even a bad thing to us.” Comparisons are drawn with the Northern Irish peace process, as Shabba and Dylan visit former Blair advisor Jonathan Powell, and it’s interesting to see how the 2011 riots change the dynamic. The most powerful thing about One Mile Away, though, is the insight Woolcock gets from the young men (and occasionally women) that she interviews. A side of Birmingham that many of us never get to see.