Centerfold: Hair-raising tale: Controversial dance film about the Winston Silcott case receives first public screening

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Indy Lifestyle Online
A controversial dance/drama film about the unsafe conviction of Winston Silcott will get its first public screening this week. Winston Silcott: the Beard of Justice will be shown on Thursday at Ballet Rambert's school at the West London Institute in Twickenham. Rodreguez King Dorset (right), who directed, choreographed and performed, has already been nominated for one major award as a result.

Rodreguez, described as one of the country's brightest young black talents, has struggled against financial problems, legal difficulties, bureaucracy and patronising attitudes from the arts world. 'Some people never expected the film to be completed,' he said. 'You get the impression that they believe young black people can dance and sing or whatever as long as there are white people there to tell them what to do and when.'

The film is certain to cause controversy as the furore over Winston Silcott's innocence and Home Office compensation payments heats up. Silcott is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Tony Smith, a boxer. His lawyers will be applying in the next few weeks for a judicial review of the Home Office's decision not to allow him to appeal against this conviction. There is also controversy over the Home Office decision to pay Silcott an interim payment of pounds 10,000 in part compensation.

Working with a tiny budget - ironically also pounds 10,000 - Rodreguez grappled with the technical difficulties of cramming his message into a six-minute short. He enlisted talented young actors, dancers, film technicians and Silcott's brother, George, who contributed a reading of one of Winston's poems to the soundtrack. In the end he waived his own fees for the project.

The result is a dark and claustrophobic collection of shocking images. Some of the scenes are deeply disturbing; actors scream, sweat, shake and throw up. The dancers move, tortured, writhing in cages which symbolise their incarceration and maltreatment at the hands of the police. But ultimately the film is a tribute to human resilience.

Carlton Television, also a part funder of the project, is now holding the film and has no plans to broadcast it until early next year. It was nominated for a Granada television award last month which Rodreguez had to turn down for contractual reasons.

Rodreguez is determined the film should get as wide an audience as possible: 'As a film-maker I'm dealing with political issues or arguments based on facts which my craft demands that I make accessible to people. They will tune in and sometimes even get turned on. Television can not only get people thinking, it can get them to behave like citizens and to grapple with the basic issues of a free society.'

'Winston Silcott: Beard of Justice' 6pm Thur 6 Oct, at the West London Institute, 300 St Margarets Rd, Twickenham TW1 (081-891 0121)

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