All you need to know about Blue Story

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Jenny Longden

Newly released film Blue Story has found itself in the centre of controversy.

The film has been pulled by two chains of cinemas following a mass brawl at a cinema in Birmingham.

Gangs of youths, some armed with machetes, fought at the Star City cinema on Saturday evening, with seven police officers injured in the clashes.

However the decision to pull the film by the nationwide chains has received a strong backlash online with the hashtag #NoBlueNoVue trending after Vue Cinema became the first to initiate a ban.

Here is all you need to know about Blue Story.

Michael Ward (left) and Stephen Odubola (right) play the main characters. Credit: PA

What is Blue Story?

Timmy and Marco become close school friends in Peckham but live in different postcodes, which have rival gangs.

Their friendship is tested by the rivalry and they end up on opposite sides as violence between the two factions increases.

Why is it controversial?

Certain south London councils banned the makers from filming violent scenes in the area, forcing parts to be produced in Enfield.

Director Andrew Onwubolu hit out at the decision to block filming, telling the Guardian: "No one in [London mayor] Sadiq Khan’s office read the script! The heart of the film is that the good times only exist before the violence.

"If you see my film and tell me afterwards I’ve glamorised gangs, I’ll know you’ve just been sitting there on Instagram."

That's a reference to the criticism in some sections of social media that the film inadvertently glamorises gang violence and knife crime.

Onwubolu, better known as Rapman, is adamant his film's central message is love not violence.

Who is Rapman?

Rapman makes his feature film debut with Blue Story.

Originally from Deptford, Rapman is best known for his three-part musical thriller Shiro's Story, which has attracted almost 20 million views on YouTube.

The trilogy received interest from across the world, including rapper Jay-Z who signed Rapman to his label off the back of it.

Shiro's Story follows similar themes to Blue Story and is told through rap and is influenced by his own experiences. "I want less kids on the street killing each other," Rapman told MTV in a recent interview.

Karla-Simone Spence plays Leah. Credit: PA

Who's in Blue Story?

The film has a mix of established actors and other relative unknowns.

Marco is portrayed by Michael Ward, who is best known for his role as Jamie in Top Boy.

Timmy is played by Stephen Odubola, who has minimal professional acting work under his belt.

Karla-Simone Spence stars as Leah. She is most recognisable for playing Cali Okello in BBC drama Gold Digger.

What have critics said about the film?

The Guardian gave the film four stars, stating: "The documentary-style iPhone footage and TV news clips about gangs, guns and knife crime that bookend the film reinforce its message."

Meanwhile, Empire offered a three-star rating, pointing out the film covers plenty of old ground when it comes to gang wars.

"It’s a well told story with a worthwhile, if not especially revolutionary message," says the review.

What's been the reaction to the film being pulled in some cinemas?

A petition has been launched to get Blue Story back in all main UK cinemas.

Others pushed for people to boycott other films at cinemas not showing Blue Story - while some condemned the ban as "discrimination".

BBC Films defended its product, saying Blue Story is an "important film", which aims to show the "futility of gang violence".

A spokesperson for BBC Films said: “We are appalled by the incident at Star City and our thoughts are with all those affected by it.

"Blue Story is an outstanding, critically acclaimed debut feature which powerfully depicts the futility of gang violence.

"It’s an important film from one of the UK’s most exciting new filmmakers which we’re proud to be part of.”

What have politicians said about the film being banned?

But Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said "it's absolutely right" cinema chains pull films which "lead to violence."

Speaking to ITV News Ms Morgan said: "I think it's absolutely right that cinema chains should make the decision about the films that they want to show, but if there are concerns actually a film is leading to violence to somehow overdramatising or making somehow more glamorous the lives of gangs, and that is a concern.

"But's absolutely right it's the cinema chains should make that decision."

What have cinema chains said about their decision?

Vue Cinemas, which runs Star City, issued a statement about its decision to pull the film.

“The decision to withdraw Blue Story was not one taken lightly or without careful consideration of our experience across the country. The film opened in 60 of our sites across the UK and Ireland on Friday 22nd November, but during the first 24 hours of the film over 25 significant incidents were reported and escalated to senior management in 16 separate cinemas. This is the biggest number we have ever seen for any film in a such a short time frame," the statement said.

"Despite a range of precautionary measures in place, including increased security, removal of late-night showings and reduced screenings of the film, the decision to withdraw Blue Story in its entirety was made on Saturday evening on grounds of safety alone. While we are disappointed that these are the actions we have had to take, we hope it is understandable that we cannot, and will not, take any risks with regard to the welfare and safety of our staff and our customers. Unfortunately, the actions of a significant few have spoiled the opportunity for others, but we stand by our decision to withdraw the film from our schedule indefinitely.

"This decision is not, as some have alleged, based on biased assumptions or concern about the content of the film itself. At Vue, we believe passionately in bringing people together and using the power of the big screen experience to entertain, educate and inspire all of our audiences. Blue Story is a fantastic film and one with a very powerful message. It is a film that has the opportunity to change lives. We hope that Blue Story achieves the success it deserves and importantly its message does not get lost.”