Review: The Black Cop

Written and directed by Cherish Oteka, docu-drama exploring one former police officer’s experience of being both victim and perpetrator of racism in the police force.

At its heart, this film delves into the idea of self-identity and how easily at a young age prejudice can be ingrained into the psyche and impact behaviour and decisions for decades. It may revolve around the experience of being in the police, but that doesn’t actually take the forefront, as it’s a very focused example. The style is intimate, inward-looking and surprisingly sentimental, with even a touch of nostalgia. It may not work for those expecting a bigger outpour of criticism towards the police and ingrained racism and prejudice, but instead tries to do justice to the story and experience of Gamal Turawa, in his own words.

It explores how mental health can be warped by perceptions foisted upon you by others, and how Turawa adapted his behaviour to try and fit what other people wanted of him. It feels as though he perhaps softens the blow on his experience, while some of his examples are slightly shocking, it feels likely that he suffered even worse. Also, then bringing homophobia into the discussion is a lot to deal with in a brief 20-minutes. It shifts the focus and while it’s unquestionably something that should be talked about, it begs the question of whether it would have done more justice to focus entirely on one issue, to give it full attention. It feeds into how he eventually learned to find peace and happiness amongst such discrimination but sadly takes away from the film as a whole.

Cherish Oteka’s choice to use recreations of Turawa’s experiences is another element that moves the film into a more accessible place. Again, making that decision to not develop the more heavy and dark undertones to this story is one that won’t work for everyone and can undercut its impact. The editing similarly adds to the sentimental feel, it’s not a damning exploration of the police, it’s one man’s walk down memory lane to divulge his experiences.

The Black Cop highlights a number of different mental health and self-identity crises as a result of racism and discrimination. It delves into how being exposed to prejudice at such a young age has a detrimental, long-lasting impact. However, the choice to frame the story in a more sentimental, intimate and accessible manner unfortunately dulls its more biting or impactful potential.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Nominated for Best British Short Film at the EE BAFTAs 2022

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