A pox on both your stereotypes


I'm British But ...
Directed by Gurinder Chadha
Reviewed by Reihana Mohideen

"I describe myself as a Scottish Pakistani", says a Scotland-born young woman from Glasgow, her strong Scots accent rolling off her tongue. She talks about trying to come to terms with her Asian background and her Scottish nationality.

I>I'm British But ... is a portrait of second-generation British Asians, filmed in Glasgow, Belfast, South Wales and London. The film, directed by Kenyan born Gurinder Chadha, is one of three short films produced by the British Film Institute's New Directors Program. The three films are screened under the title London Calling.

I'm British But ... tries to uncover a defiant youth subculture emerging amongst those with Asian backgrounds as they try to create a cultural identity which draws from both their Asian roots and their British nationality. The film also challenges the idea of a homogeneous British national culture. Hence the "Scottish Pakistani", who, as a Scottish nationalist, defiantly rejects any description of herself as British.

The film starts with a scene in Southall. An Indian band plays on the streets, urging people to return to their beloved Punjab. But in another scene, a young Asian from South Wales shyly admits that he cannot speak the language and found it hard to get around without a guide on his last visit to India. It becomes apparent that the younger generation cannot find a cultural identity by simply harking back to the land of their ancestors. In trying to find a synthesis between the Asian and the British, they break down both traditional stereotypes.

A young female dress designer tries to combine the flow of the saree with Western evening dress, and the traditional salwar kameez with a more Western-styled denim suit and pants. There is a wonderful rap session to the refrain of Bangla music from an East End DJ crew, Joi Bangla.

Venues playing Bhangra and Bangla music (rap and disco musics with strong Asian musical tones) are an increasingly popular feature of this emerging youth culture.

While the film looks at a specific migrant experience in Britain, it's main themes touch the heart of the Third World migrant experience in general. The essence of the cultural rebellion in the film is the rejection of the racist British stereotype, the mainstream TV culture of the white-skinned, blonde-haired and blue-eyed images — the very same images that dominate the manufactured mainstream culture in Australia. Watching the film one thinks of how applicable it is in many ways to the Australian migrant experience. I'm Australian But ...

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