"I'm trying to see how ma funk can mix with London funk" explained the subject of an oddly engaging film for Black Bag. Gram'ma Funk had decided to make it big over here - and Denise Seneviratne's film followed Gram'ma's rather hopeless project. Given that she had little to offer besides a jumbo-pack of self-belief this initially seemed a touch pointless. There have been good documentaries about the collision between beautiful dreams and the cold light of day, but they always face the danger of turning into a rather melancholy statement of the obvious - if wishes were horses then beggars would ride. Gram'ma Funk - an in-your-face persona with a brassy swagger and a ballooning Afro - seemed to think that she would be best qualified as a Hostess, a kind of poster-girl for a good time. She wanted, effectively, to be famous for being famous and the only thing that stood in her way was her distinct lack of distinction. Quite undaunted Gram'ma Funk was building a fan-base from scratch, starting with herself as Member Number One. She enlisted her identical twin sister, a photographer, as a paparazzo by personal appointment and talked of herself in the third person, as if covering the fact that nobody else would. The film occasionally showed signs of complicity in this endeavour - after all a near-miss was going to be more entertaining for the viewer. The director began with a montage of heads turning in Brixton, for example - the editing suggesting that Gram'ma's mere appearance was enough to stop people in their tracks. But something about this sequence felt a bit cooked-up, in particular the fact that you never saw both turner and turnee in the same frame. What saved the film from inconsequentiality, despite the fact that nothing much happened, was that it offered a way of looking at black Britain out of the corner of your eye. She was outraged by the number of inter-racial couples she saw in clubs, for instance, clearly seeing this as a betrayal by the Brothers. Perhaps she was just feeling a little frustrated (she had taken to begging attractive passers by for their telephone number) but the observation opened a small window into racial politics. More interesting still was her "wannabe" view of the various businesses on whose doors she knocked in vain - from a hair salon, through publishing and music. These weren't presented - as they inevitably would have been in a documentary that was more self-consciously about black businesses - as in any way exemplary. They were just a routine background against which her flamboyant appetite for success stood out. Her sister, who had taken the precaution of developing a marketable skill, got a job pretty quickly - but by the end of the film Gram'ma Funk was still waiting for someone to switch on the spotlight.
The Great Storm happened 10 years ago today and because television can no more pass an anniversary than a dog can a lamp-post, 999 offered a special programme of stories from that night (there is something touching about the way they always announce the beginning of a reconstruction - as if otherwise you might mistake these clunky dramas for documentary archive). By the end it looked as if they were running out of material - the film included an extended reconstruction of the nerve-racking moment when a tiger didn't escape from Howlett's Zoo. Not only that, but it didn't savage the keeper either and he didn't stumble and sever an artery with the chainsaw he was using to cut away fallen branches from the enclosure. I think this man should consider himself very lucky to have been included in the programme at all. Given that other participants had had to endure being stone-washed in a disintegrating caravan, sucked from a bedroom window by freak winds or pinned agonisingly beneath several tons of masonry in order to qualify, his brush with fate was underpowered, to say the least. Come to think of it the tree opposite my house creaked rather ominously that night. I shudder to think of the narrowness of my escape.Reuse content