Black Sheep March 24, 2015

Daniel Allen
The main events of this short, vivid, film take place in Bradford in northern England, a large city with one of the largest ethnic minority populations in the country, and some of the worst social conditions for it’s residents, regardless of their ethnicity.

The two brothers, Jack who is younger (13) and Sam (age not given, but also a teenager), who are the film’s central characters, take the train to the city center for a demonstration against Muslim grooming gangs (groups who groom youths through the internet in order to sexually abuse them), although what the protest is against is irrelevant to the film. More relevant is the fact of the protest by this violent right-wing group, and the fact that the brothers go, this being the first such demonstration that either has attended.

Still from Black Sheep

There is the bad language, anti-Muslim sentiment and uninformed opinion you might expect throughout the film; and at the demonstration the rhythmical chanting of rude songs and camaraderie among the demonstrators (all tough-looking men in their twenties and thirties). Yet the heart of the film is the friendship between the brothers. Despite first appearances, Sam does look after younger brother Jack, although at the same time mocking him, teasing him (especially for not knowing the national anthem, or even what a national anthem is), telling him to wash the dishes, etc. They sit at home, do normal home stuff, chat, eat pot noodles (no dishes to wash) and do general brother stuff. Cleverly, their parents are never shown. The boys exist in a Lord of the Flies world in which adults are peripheral,
unnecessary almost. The boys are on their own trajectory with their own decisions to make.

The demonstration is something of an initiation for Jack, into the EDL and in a small way into the adult world. Sam, however, is sure he is an adult; he is also sure that Muslims are bad and should ‘go home’. Jack, thankfully, is a little more circumspect. He can see a world opening up in front of him, a world that his brother has already taken at least one step into. But it seems that this is a world that young Jack is not ready for, and perhaps never will be.