There’s a scene in “Blue Story,” where gang members argue over the avoidable death of one of their own who has just been shot by a rival gang. “What are we even fighting for?” One angrily exclaims, “A postcode that we don’t even own?!” It’s the dialogue in this film about gang rivalry in South East London, which sets the stage for writer/director Rapman’s tragic tale of brotherhood, rivalry, romance and gang violence.
For its star Stephen Odubola, it is one of the most powerful scenes in this moving drama. “It wasn’t in your face, but it was posing the question of what the violence was really about. You have people fighting for an area they don’t even own and one questioning whether it is worth your life.”
Filled with details of daily life, rap music and street lingo, “Blue Story” follows two high school boys from warring zip codes who form a firm friendship which is tested when they wind up on rival sides of a street war. There are good directorial touches and earnest playing by a fresh-faced cast that includes Odubola as Timmy, a smart, naive young boy whose character goes from sweet to savage as the film evolves on the streets of South London.
“The film shows how certain circumstances can make friendships go wrong and it is for people to see that gang life is not worth it and for people who are not aware of that life to be educated so they won’t get caught up in it,” continues Odubola. Karla-Simone Spence plays his love interest, Leah, the central narrative to this tragic tale, Micheal Ward (Netflix’s “Top Boy”) is Timmy’s (Odubola) best friend Marco and Eric Kofi-Abrefa wraps up the main cast making a strong impression as Marco’s older brother Switcher, and the leader of the Peckham gang who ignites the war between the two best friends.
“It shows different versions of love. Brotherly love, romance love and the love between two best friends,” adds Spence, who admits she was initially skeptical of making the movie. “I wasn’t sure it was a route I wanted to go down. People say, ‘There’s a lot of hood movies out, make something new.’ But when I read [the script] I realized it was something different. Usually with films like these females are sex symbols and stereotypical, but Leah was completely different. She was innocent, had ambitious and is the moral compass of the story. Their love drives the narrative all the way to the end and I really liked that. It’s very authentic and it’s shining a light on what is actually happening today. It depicts what actually does go on in London. American audiences will be able to relate to it because it’s so universal.”
For Odubola, a Rapman fan, joining the cast was a no brainer. He was very familiar with Rapman having seen the YouTube short film version of “Blue Story” years ago. “When I heard he was casting for it, I instantly wanted to get involved as I was already familiar with the story. Timmy is not too far from myself in the sense that I was raised by Nigerian parents and grew up in South London and aware of all the things that were happening around me and so I used all those things to get into my character,” adds the actor who is hoping it will lead to more roles in the U.S. market.
Much of the film’s strength comes from the actors and the rap narration by Rapman adds a symphonic touch. Tautly paced with a powerful climax, there’s plenty to create a box-office stir in “Blue Story” which tells the story of a never-ending cycle of gang war in which there are no winners only victims.
“Blue Story” releases in theaters March 20. Check out the trailer below:
By Samantha Ofole-Prince