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
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee