Hoodie UK: A new film about teenagers is set to shock every parent in Middle England

Bullying, prostitution, drugs - 'Kidulthood' shows what children really get up to when mum and dad aren't looking. Liz Hoggard reports

It promises to be the most controversial British film of the year. The Sun has already called for it to be banned and The Times has accused it of pandering to middle-class voyeurism in its portrayal of crime, bullying and sexual abuse. Set among a group of white and black teenagers in west London, from working-class and middle-class families, and based entirely on true stories, Kidulthood claims to be the first feature film to accurately reflect what life is like for urban kids.

There are graphic scenes of drug-taking, violence, casual sex and organised crime. The characters are all 15. The film opens with a middle-class schoolgirl being horrifically bullied in a classroom. When her preoccupied businessman father picks up her from school, he fails to spot the bruises. Ten minutes later, she has hanged herself. In another sequence two girls trade sexual favours with older men for pocket money to spend at Topshop. A young black boy cuts a man's throat to impress his drug-dealer uncle. Running parallel, however, are story- lines about coping with bad skin and how to choose your friends wisely.

Not surprising then that the film, out in two weeks, has divided critics. But is it an unflinching portrayal of teenage life, or a manipulative assault on the paranoid anxieties of Middle England? For one thing is sure - this film is certain to put the fear of God into parents everywhere.

"This is an essential film for all parents to see," says Sandra White, a youth and development manager with the Metropolitan Black Police Association. "You have to shock adults and young people out of apathy, and into action. We can be quite a desensitised society. Every child could be at risk because of all the influences they face, whatever their background."

Noel Clarke, who wrote the screenplay, insists it is the essential truth of his work that makes the film so controversial. "It touches a raw nerve," he says. "It's on the pulse of what's happening in society right now. Kids these days are growing up too fast."

Clarke, 30, best known for playing Billie Piper's boyfriend in Dr Who, is sure of his material. He grew up in the Ladbroke Grove and Harrow Road area of London where the film is set. His childhood bedroom is used in one scene. For a year he collected newspaper articles about teenagers in trouble, then condensed them into a 90-minute storyline, seen from their point of view.

With a cast that includes Clarke, Jamie Winstone - the teenage daughter of Ray Winstone - and Rafe Spall, son of Timothy Spall, and a "hip-hop and grime" soundtrack by Dizzee Rascal, The Streets and Lady Sovereign, Kidulthood is seriously hip. It also looks fantastic: the director of photography, Brian Tufano, shot Trainspotting and Quadrophenia. Some are predicting it will join the ranks of cult films such as City of God and La Haine. But the film-makers are adamant that style shouldn't get in the way of substance.

"You have a bullying storyline, young people coming up against issues of sex for the first time, taking drugs, dealing with teenage pregnancy," says Hannah Jolliffe of the youth website www.TheSite.org, which gives advice to young people on everything from drugs to sexual health. "What is impressive is it doesn't try to moralise."

The highly multicultural film shows that in the new Britain, all kids face the same temptations.

"The good thing about street culture is that it brings a lot of black, white and Asian people together," says White. "Unfortunately they're impressed by a very Americanised, hip-hop take on culture, full of fast cars and women who dress provocatively."

It is the middle-class parents - portrayed as work-obsessed or naively liberal - who come out worst. In one darkly comic moment, a trendy mother stands outside her 15-year-old daughter's bedroom door, blithely reminding her to "use a condom, sweetheart", unaware her daughter is being sexually harassed by a teenage boy on the other side.

In its shocking portrait of "girl-women" selling their bodies for drugs and clothes, the film points a finger squarely at our over-sexualised culture. How are teenagers to think any differently when they see stars such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton posing as jail-bait?

Films that tackle teen gangs or cliques (Heathers, Thirteen, Kids, City of God) are the backbone of modern independent cinema. The best examples of the genre communicate with teenaged audiences in a language that they identify with, while also reminding adults what it was like. They are also a wake-up call to conservative adults.

We may not like the fact that the 11-year-old protagonist of Welcome to the Dollhouse has an under-age affair, or that the two girls in Thirteen embark on a spree of shoplifting and drug-taking, but we can see why it happens. People with nothing to lose - alienated, marginalised - do scary things.

"Bullying, happy-slapping ...whatever you name it, it is happening already," insists Clarke. "The film is highlighting that, not promoting it. It's saying, 'This is going on. Deal with it.'"

"If parents aren't aware what's going on, it's very hard to help their children go through it," agrees Jolliffe. "Films like this which promote communication can only be a good thing."

White thinks it will help adults understand the way kids think. "Many parents do not have a clue what their children are up to." The film closes with a huge teenage party in one of those chichi, double-fronted Victorian London houses we're more used to seeing in Notting Hill. Desperate to impress his peers while his parents are away, well-heeled Blake invites the whole school. In they stream, aping drunken, sexed-up adult behaviour. Violence rapidly ensues.

But for all the scenes of hedonism, Kidulthood can be surprisingly moral. Essentially it's a film about bullying: black kids bully white kids, white kids bully black kids, girls bully girls. The final message is that bullying is always unacceptable.

"Bullies are bastards aren't they?" says Winstone with feeling. "If this film makes a couple of parents go, 'Maybe I should sit down and talk to my son or my daughter more', then I think it's done its job."

'Kidulthood' is released on 3 March

Rough guide: 'I grew up here. I know what it's like'

Saadeya Sham, 21, grew up on the estate in west London where 'Kidulthood' is set

Gun crime, street violence, drug dealing, prostitution, petty theft. This is the real Notting Hill, not the fairytale version Richard Curtis presented. Growing up on a council estate at the top of Golborne Road, I know you're just as likely to brush shoulders with a crackhead stumbling down Portobello Market as a supermodel.

Kidulthood is a deeply shocking film. It reminded me of my childhood in a lot of ways. There were fights in our morning assemblies almost daily. My brother's best friend was suspended for beating up the headmistress's husband. The previous headmaster left within two years of joining. His background was in the Salvation Army but this was one social challenge too far. And this was primary school.

I was lucky that I had both my parents to keep me grounded, but most of my friends were from single-parent families. I remember a friend's mum coming into her room, picking her new jeans out of the wardrobe and hawking them door to door to tide them over the bank holiday weekend. My father's friend owns a local newsagent's and is always having stuff nicked by the same kids. The police don't seem able to do anything.

I moved to another area of London in my teens, but I kept in touch and I hear terrible stories. Friends who became drug dealers. The friend I made at an evening class who confided that he pimped teenage girls in flats near the Tube station. Friends of friends who were stabbed. The plot of Kidulthood may be exaggerated but the heart of it rings true.

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?