Eelyn Lee’s creative documentary, Britishness, is an immersive, eye-opening experience. The film is an in-depth enquiry into identity, belonging, community, nationality and citizenship, as shaped by race, religion, and privilege. Conducted in collaboration with young writers and cultural figures from Sheffield, it presents a comprehensive study of Britain’s internal borders, its binaries and human costs. The film features writer Desirée Reynolds, MEP Magid Magid, Sheffield Poet Laureate Otis Mensah, poet Warda Yassin and Leroy Wenham, creator of Sheffield Carnival amongst others. This collection of personal experiences and wordsmithery is a mirror for our political times from which the spectator can readily derive sociological and psychological meaning.
Aiming to explore how the present climate of division is affecting our sense of belonging, especially for those hailing from other lands, Britishness embarks on a vibrant journey across community gatherings, such as the Sheffield Carnival, Eid and World Cup. By gathering a breadth of experiences from people engaged in community activities, Eelyn and her collaborators instil a sense of unity among those interviewed and build a direct relationship between the viewer and the participants.
Most discussions take place within groups, facilitated by writer Desirée Reynolds or the interviewees themselves, and ask open questions such as “What does Britishness mean to you?”. These discussions create a space where participants explore and affirm their identity, listen to other personal narratives and revise their idea of Britishness – simultaneously empowering themselves and anyone that relates. In a climate where the British media imposes vilifying and dehumanising characteristics on asylum seekers, refugees and British ethnic minorities, Britishness is a long-awaited exercise in self-determination and authenticity.
Britishness showed at the Showroom Cinema as part of Black History Month 2019. For Black History Month 2020, the film's commissioners at FURD (Football Unites Racism Divides) have made the film available online.