Young Soul Rebels  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Young Soul Rebels is a 1991 critically acclaimed coming-of-age/drama British film written by Derek Saldaan McClintock, Isaac Julien and Paul Hallam, and directed by Juilen. The film examines the interaction between youth cultural movements during the late 1970s in the UK. Namely skinheads, punks and soulboys along with the social, political and cultural tensions between them. The film was released in the United Kingdom on 9 August 1991, followed by a North American release on December 6, 1991. The film is also the feature film acting debuts of Sophie Okonedo (a future Academy Award nominee) and Eamonn Walker.


The action centres on several themes firstly a homosexual murder investigation involving one of the central characters (Valentine Nonyela) and his relationship with his girlfriend (Sophie Okonedo).

The second narrative involves a gay punk (Jason Durr) and a soul boy (Mo Sesay) in a relationship, which is the source of the narrative conflict as they face double prejudice of racism and homophobia, in both West Indian and white British communities. Ultimately, The film is a love story that could be seen as an allegory for racial and class unity, as their love transcends class and race barriers.

Set in London in 1977, the plot takes place against the background of the Silver Jubilee. This is a buddy movie between two friends Chris and Caz who run a pirate radio station from a tower block in Dalston, East London. The film starts with a murder of their friend TJ while cruising for sex in the local park at night and, while Caz is cut up by the death of his friend, Chris seems to want to push forward towards a professional career in commercial radio. They both want to promote soul music while the prevailing popular music is punk.Chris meets Tracy at the recording studio and persuades her to get his audition tape heard but he is not ready to sell out his identity to get a job in the mainstream.

Caz meets a punk Billibud who talks about communism and the Socialist Workers Party, while wearing (admittedly nicked) Vivienne Westwood designer T-shirts. The murder and the different paths they seem to be taking causes tension between the buddies Chris and Caz. Chris discovers that he has a tape recorded of the murder but fails to hand it in as evidence. He is then pulled in by the police as a suspect because he was in possession of TJ's cassette radio. He tries to call Caz but Caz is busy with his new boyfriend and trying to get a bigger aerial for their pirate radio station. He calls Tracy and she helps him to get a solicitor. He tells her about the tape and she advises him to hand it in as evidence, but again, he puts this off.

Chris and Caz have their showdown on the roof of the tower block and Chris nearly falls off the roof. He then meets Tracy and she persuades him to send the tape to the police, but not before he has made a copy. They then make love on a rooftop.On the day of the Silver Jubilee celebrations Caz and Billibud go to the street fair, where Billibud is attacked by the local skinheads. Caz and Billibud return home and make love. That evening Chris goes to the radio station but Caz is not there and the studio has been vandalised. He starts broadcasting 'Funk the Jubilee' but it is not the same without his partner Caz. He then is attacked by TJ's murderer who turns out to be someone he and Caz had thought of as a friend. He escapes but can't find Caz.

The grand reckoning is at an open air disco in the park where TJ was murdered. Caz and Billibud are MC's and Chris is trying to get to them to warn them that there is going to be trouble from TJ's murderer. A Molotov cocktail is thrown onto the stage and while Caz and Billibud try to save the vinyl records, Chris puts on the tape of TJ's murder, which brings him out and onto the stage where he falls to his death in the inferno of his own creation.There is a bitter-sweet background of the racial and sexual tensions of the British 1970's, with skinheads hassling Chris and Caz, local white's making snide remarks about how things have changed since they were young and blacks who are unable to decide if they hate whites, mixed-race people or 'batty boys' most. Yet, to balance this, the youth in the clubs are enjoying the music, drinking, dancing and bonking inter-racially and without strong prejudices about gay men kissing in clubs.

The final scene with the main characters cleaning the records, the reconciliation of the two DJ buddies and the one-by-one each of the friends joining into dance together is very life-affirming.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Young Soul Rebels" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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