Pride On Film: BASHMENT by Rikki Beadle-Blair

Reeling The Chicago Gay & Lesbian Film Fest Part 3

Photo credit Rikki Beadle-Blair speaking at the pre-launch of LGBT History Month 08 at the Royal Courts of Justice – 26 November 2007

Rikki Beadle-Blair has been directing since he was 11 years old. The British born, West Indian descentant actor and performer has written several hit plays that have been adapted into hit movies including METROSEXUALITY, for which he won the Jury Prize for Best Feature-Gay Male at the Philadelphia International Film Festival in 2001; FIT, which was developed to tackle homophobia and bullying in Britain’s schools; and BASHMENT, which tackles homophobia in Reggae and hip-hop music.

BASHMENT follow MC J.J, a gay, white boy trying to make a name for himself in London’s urban music scene. One night after battling popular local hip-hop group the Ilmanics, J.J’s boyfriend Orlando is savagely beaten. The Ilmanics are sentenced to prison while J.J. is forced to take care of Orlando.

PRIDEINDEX: Tell us more about your “life-long commitment to create challenging and transformative entertainment.”

RIKKI BEADLE-BLAIR: I’m only interested in creating work that challenges and changes me. If I’m not going to be too exhausted, exhilarated, educated, and stretched by a project-or by my working day I can’t get excited about it. But the bottom line is that my job is to provide entertainment, to make people laugh and cry,  – to transport and inspire them.

PI: Which film festivals has BASHMENT played and where do you intend on showing it next?
RBB: BASHMENT is just beginning its festival journey. It has played the San Francisco and Los Angles Gay & Lesbian Film Festivals, next up is Hong KONG!

PI: Briefly describe any notable challenges that occurred during the making of this film and tell us how you overcame them?
RBB: Making any independent film is always like reinventing the wheel. How to create the work within the financial constraints is always a major puzzle. With this one it was how to create a believable underground hip-hop scene. Getting the extras; filming it quickly and thoroughly, creating that energy. The key was having an amazing Director of Photography and Editor; which I luckily had. They made solving problems fun. I am blessed to have an amazing team.

PI: Where did you find the inspiration for BASHMENT?
RBB: A few years ago I made a radio documentary about this intense homophobia that exists in Reggae/Reggaeton music and urban music in general. I became increasingly fascinated with this issue and decided that I had to create a project on this subject. So I did.

PI: How long did it take you to complete this the film from conception to its very first screening?
RBB: BASHMENT was first performed as a very successful play in London five years before it was filmed with most of the same cast, so it took a while. All of my films have taken a while to come to the screen. But it was worth it.

PI: There are characters in this film that resemble some well-known American hip-hop artists such as Eminem, Tupak Shukar and. 50 Cents, is that intentional?
RBB: We wanted the characters to look convincingly “street,” but they are NOT meant to represent any of those people in particular.

PI: Tell us about the some of the music featured in this film, who were the artist, and how did you decide what to include?
RBB: All of the music in the movie is original and created by me. Except for the song ‘Redemption’ performed by the artist that you see onstage, the gorgeous, “Craig Storrod and Kn’S. We didn’t include any real homophobic reggae or hip-hop artist, we didn’t want to give them any money for that work.

PI: Your brother Gary Beadle, of the popular UK series EastEanders, stars in this film, what was it like to work together?
RBB: Well, I was the first person ever directed by Gary when we were growing up in South London. So we’re pretty comfortable together. Gary is, and always was, a star; he’s super talented! I always knew how to communicate with him. It’s always amazing to work together.

PI: What advice would you offer youth in regards to bullying or homophobia?
RBB: Don’t suffer in silence. Get help and a support system. talk to friends, teachers, counselors, and the police; whoever you can. And remember that it’s not about you; the bullies are just using you to work through their own issues, There is nothing wrong with you. Being special often attracts the attention of those who wish they could feel more special.

PI: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
RBB: Yes. I intend to keep making more and more work that tackles the issues of our sexuality and humanity and build a library of images, and words and music that contributes to making this world a friendlier safer place for people of all sexualities, colors and persuasions. And that, whenever you can, I encourage others to do the same. The world needs more positive voices and visions. Let’s speak up whenever we can – for others and ourselves.