Black – an insightful tale of racism, poverty and alienation
Black is a film adaptation of books by author Dirk Bracke—influenced by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Arthur Laurents’ West Side Story,
It is largely set in Molenbeek, a district of Brussels in Belgium.
This is where some of those involved in recent terror attacks in Brussels and Paris were from. The location is a critical element to the plot. Molenbeek is an area with high unemployment and many recent immigrants.
It’s where we meet young Marwan (Aboubakr Bensaihi) and Mavela (Martha Canga Antonio), who start dating despite being from opposing gangs, the 1080s and Black Bronx.
The film’s most violent and inhumane moments are between and within the gangs.
It seemed that it was trying to tackle too many issues within a limited time frame and the dramatic plot was in danger of overshadowing its comment on race, gender and class.
But, surprisingly, it works because it focuses on social divisions and the racism faced by young people who seek a sense of belonging within the gangs.
The couple ultimately face the consequences of their decision to leave the gangs.
Marwan is seen as disloyal and Mavela is seen as someone else’s property. When Marwan looks to leave the gang and get a job his elder brother and gang leader Nassim tells him it’s futile. “You were born here but you’re still different, you’ll always be a foreigner,” he says.