Dionne Walker graduated in 2012 from The City – MSc, an interdisciplinary postgraduate programme that intersected History of Art, visual cultures, urban design and human geography. She is now a producer and was nominated for a BAFTA at this year’s awards for her film The Hard Stop, which was also nominated for Best Documentary at last year’s British Independent Film Awards.
“I make films that handle social and cultural issues,” said Dionne, "Essentially I’m interested in cinema for the people. I’m exploring how we live now. And that can be crooked, or a happy state of wellbeing. Often it’s somewhere in between. I want to show what lies between, and to do that, I’m taking an ethnographic approach."
The programme at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) enabled her to explore the issues and ideas that are important in her creative life.
“I owe much to Professor Richard Williams, whose visual cultures lectures influenced my thinking a lot,” she said, “I had a great time in Edinburgh, especially in the studio. We were assigned to map out urbanisation and compare housing, and religious and shopping sites in Casablanca and Edinburgh. I investigated Le Corbusier housing architectures in Casablanca. These developments were very similar to Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, which is where we filmed The Hard Stop. Our investigation was published in ‘Gamma/Jamma’ by the University of Edinburgh.”
The title of the film comes from the tactic used by police when they use unmarked police cars to stop a vehicle without prior warning. The ‘hard stop’ that is being referenced in particular occurred in 2011, when a taxi carrying Mark Duggan was pulled over and he was shot and killed by the police. The local community responded with a protest outside the police station, but it is what happened afterwards that most would remember, as the news was filled with coverage of riots for days and weeks afterwards.
"The film came out of an idea to explore what was behind the 2011 civil unrest, the worst in recent British history. It’s a character-driven narrative. I worked with George Amponsah, the Director, and helped to develop his initial ideas and to get the production crew and backers involved. We worked together to construct his observational material with our editors. We started out thinking that this was going to be an independent project for the community, and never realised that it would resonate with such a wide audience.”
Perhaps it is the human perspective that resonates with the audience, a socially relevant story told through the characters, that goes beyond headlines and sensationalism. As a review of the film in ‘Variety’ stated, “While the fact that criminal acts were committed during the riots is not disputed, what Amponsah and co-writer Dionne Walker (who also produces) manage with great skill is to provide a context that encourages understanding rather than a rush to judgement.”
“To be nominated for our hybrid film validates the work we are trying to do,” said Dionne, “We’re trying to introduce a fresh perspective to socially-relevant cinema. I’m interested in examining the content and the form; how we shape a more honest narrative.”
Dionne’s next project is a film called Invisible Woman in which she says she is still exploring visual cultures in cities through film. At its heart, though, the film will be about people, bringing to light untold stories and adding dimensionality to stories from ‘Others’.
"Invisible Woman is about migrant sex workers from Nigeria, China and Romania and their experience in Paris and Europe and how they navigate that space in this time. It’s a piece on gender inequality, class, sexuality, urbanisation and migration. We will explore the immigrant experience, their back story and their real-time situation.”
This article was published on 16/02/2017