The video, Clifton to Easton,a festival entry to the Zebra Film Festival featuring Bristol suburbs Clifton and Easton has
been removed after being been called abhorrent, disgraceful and has received many comments in the Bristol Post and much criticism on Bristol Culture against its derogatory depictions of the relevant populations.
The contempt for residents of Clifton is most pronounced in the poem by David C. Johnson and whose description of schoolgirls’ chests is rather questionable:
Who will join me on the diesel to Easton?
It won’t be the schoolgirls in Clifton High’s tartan,
With their push-up bras that have little to push,
Whose piercing voices and Oh! my God screeches
Reveal a vacuum that nature’s abhorring.
I first thought that this was just an ethnographic piece. Observing and writing about other people is not a sinister practise on its own, I studied the subject myself at post-graduate level and found this method of “represent[ing] graphically and in writing, the nature of a people” fascinating.
David Simon did it for his book Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets which was turned into the popular TV series The Wire; Ethnographers such as Peter Moskos do it professionally and he published his book Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District after becoming a police officer for a year; Body & Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer, a world-renowned French sociologist signed up at a boxing gym in a black neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side .
But Johnson’s poem and, apparently, the documentary made by Diana Taylor are more akin to visiting a group of people and treating them as if you were going to a zoo to note habits and behaviours. Or just to gawp. The clip of the documentary festival-entry has been
removed from YouTube and I wish I had seen the creation of these people who apparently give ethnographers a bad name. replaced with the following one: http://youtu.be/vs2aD_DuJi8.
The film was also shown at the Blue Screen film festival.
1. Where do you draw the line between nit-picking a creative / poetic representation and bringing in some facts to clear up stereotypical usage which becomes one more propagation of racism?
Easton is shown as Asian or Black with the men sitting in cafes as the narrator suggests “home is Bristol and miles away.” In fact Easton is predominantly white (75%) according to Bristol City Council statistics;
As @guriben said on Twitter: Easton is not just a melting pot. In fact nearly 70% are Christian or have no religion so how are shops selling prayer mats a representation of Easton?
2. One of the most unpleasant parts of the documentary was showing the most beautiful babies while the narrator read out the lines mocking the mothers’ choices about prams and paraphernalia. There is little that is not bitter about this poem.