The coalescing turbulence of knife crime given a poetic edge in short film Amani, directed by Richard Kattan and Joivan Wade. Based on the true events of the titilar Amani (Simpson, who produced the film), audiences play witness to a harrowing tale of inner city tragedy that is laced with a life-affirming outlook.
Played (mostly) by Joivan Wade, we see Amani in various stages of his life. Being bullied as a younger student (Ellis Witter offering a convincing turn) and turning to bad behaviour in order fit in and survive. When his parents (Karen Allen and Paul McKenzie) turn their back on him, Amani's plunge into criminal activities and surrounding himself with the usual inglorious characters of that lifestyle, this becomes a tragically familiar narrative. The story is interspersed with shocking sequences of Amani in the back of an ambulance gurgling his own blood.
So much of this short film is swaggeringly powerful. The visuals pull no punches, the performances from all the younger cast members are genuinely impressive and believable (often an obstacle for many #filmmakers), and the spoken word narration delivers a transcendental atmosphere that beautifully juxtaposes the gritty urban drama.
Wade delivers a sterling central performance that wrestles with the numerous conflicts existing within Amani expertly. The role of God is a particularly strong theme in the poetry which accompanies the film, arguing about where the man can lay his blame. What emerges over time with the thoughtful and well crafted storytelling is a revelation that we all play our own part in the outcome of our lives and that lives can be shaped with the right mentors around.
The movie utilises some effective fast-paced editing and a building sound design in order to create an accumulative effect on the viewer. Amani's journey is made up of a tapestry of moments and choices, the fabric of which make up one life destined for that ambulance. Authentic locations are used which is an important factor. To have included stylised notions of the city and the flashy trappings of an illicit way of life would have undermined the film’s intention, which is to be a robust warning and exposure of the true stories behind the victims and perpetrators of knife crime.
Part of London's potent urban #cinema, Amani stands as a glaring cautionary tale for younger viewers, as well as a stark reminder to all about the people behind the news headlines and crime stats.