Last Saturday, it was my distinct privilege to host the UK premiere of Slam (Partho Sen-Gupta, 2018) in my capacity as Co-Programmer for the London Australian Film Society.
Slam is undoubtedly a confronting film, but it is also a very important one in the contemporary climate, and one that I was admittedly a little nervous about screening. Thankfully, audience reactions, both to the film, and to the interesting and illuminating panel discussion that followed, were overwhelmingly positive.
As well as a specially recorded introduction from writer-director Partho Sen-Gupta (who was busy screening the film at the Melbourne International Film Festival the same weekend), were very lucky to be able to match the feature with an excellent short film, Borders (2017), which gives added visual dimension to the brilliant poetry of writer and filmmaker Shagufta K. Iqbal.
Shagufta also joined us for the discussion afterwards, along with Shaf Choudry from The Riz Test, and academic Aurelien Mondon from the University of Bath. As well as hearing about their respective work, our discussion touched upon some of the strategies employed by the film to address racism and Islamophobia in Australia, and its links to (and relevance for) the British context. We also discussed the role of women in the film (and the value of ‘white tears’), and touched upon broader questions about Muslim representation on screen.
A brief but lively Q&A also gave rise to questions about the film’s use of genre, about the relative value of portraying racialised experiences as ‘universal’, and about the somewhat unacknowledged presence (and function) of Palestine in the film. I’m acutely aware that we had to call an end to proceedings when there were still several hands in the air, such is the potential of this film to spark all sorts of questions, and avenues of discussion. Hopefully there will be more opportunities to continue these discussions at future screenings!
Special thanks must go to my colleagues at the London Australian Film Society for letting me run away with this one, to our collaborators at The Riz Test, as well as to the Menzies Australia Institute at King’s College London for their support in bringing speakers from beyond the M25. Thanks also to our volunteers on the night, and to our raffle sponsors: The National Theatre, Picador, Scholastic UK, and Allen & Unwin.
Last, but not least, I want to thank each of our guests, as well as Partho Sen-Gupta and Alana Lentin for all their help behind the scenes, and Aaron Winter and Kulraj Phullar for helping to source panellists.
If you missed the screening, here’s a sample of reactions from the Twitterverse:
The next LAFS screening takes place at Regent Street Cinema on October 19, and will continue our examination of racism in the Australian context via a very special screening of one of the most talked-about Australian films of recent years, The Final Quarter, an archival documentary examining the disgraceful treatment of footballer Adam Goodes during the final years of his AFL career.