“Stud Life”—Urban Life as It Is


Debbie Ransome (Caribbean Intelligence) interviews Campbell X, director of the 2012 film Stud Life, which has been described as a light take on the darker, grittier side of queer urban life in London. The film also portrays the human condition in London’s “underbelly” and issues that the Caribbean Diaspora deal with day to day (Campbell’s mother is Jamaican and her father Trinidadian). See excerpts with a link to the full article below:

It somehow seems appropriate to meet Campbell X, director of the film Stud Life, on a sunny day in the heart of London’s bohemian community, Soho. Her film, showcased from LA to Port of Spain, is now about to come out on DVD and make its way into the living rooms of the people she portrays. Stud Life is not your average image of life in Britain. Forget Downton Abbey, however much backhanded rap cred it might have attracted. And cast aside the white English middle-class life often portrayed in mainstream films. Stud Life is gritty and youthful, but also reflects a sunnier side of the human condition that often gets left out in Britain’s “gritty” life stories. A black lesbian is attacked on the streets, but an older black couple take her into her barber shop and care for her in a way that every black Diaspora community can identify with.

Campbell X [. . .] says she takes her inspiration from the people all around her in London. “[They’re] people I see when I travel every day. That’s why I take public transport – never a dull moment.” Campbell speaks with passion about the “underbelly” of life in east London, which she describes as “colourful and light and human”.

[. . .] This film portrays people that you might not describe as conventional. There’s a gay scene, a drug scene, an alternative lifestyle – all lovingly portrayed as, well, just life. No attempt at gritty urban realism here; it all just feels real.

Caribbean Reaction

So we get the elephant-in-the-interview-room question out of the way – how well does the film go down in Caribbean communities with alleged homophobic tendencies?

Stud Life opened in Los Angeles, but has also been shown at the Trinidad and Tobago Film festival, in Amsterdam and in other parts of the US. “All cultures are homophobic, or else we [in the UK] wouldn’t be having that debate [over gay marriage] in Parliament now,” Campbell says. She believes that it’s exaggerated in the Caribbean, because “we’re very religious people” and “stick to areas of the Bible that suit us”. Campbell argues that despite the often libidinous imagery inherent in Caribbean dancing, carnival and music, people are, on the whole, sexually repressed. [. . .] She argues that provocative dancing, videos (she’s directed music videos herself) and other forms of expression in the Caribbean do not “translate to sexual honesty”.

We’re all diaspora

Campbell was born in Britain. Her mother is Jamaican and her father Trinidadian. Of the long-term rivalry between the two islands and how it played out during her upbringing, she says: “It never ends.”

Campbell feels that the Jamaican influences in her film reflect the Jamaican influences in young Britain. One of her characters, a white public schoolboy drug dealer, usually speaks patois when not talking with Downton Abbey vowels. Campbell points out how many young British people are like that, even those who do not have her Caribbean roots. “I feel British, but I can speak patois,” she says.

She remarks how frequently you can hear young white people in London speaking a mix of English and Jamaican patois. “White people are diasporic too. We’ve spread our culture. Stud Life is about that culture.”

Jamaica v TT

Campbell is happy to be drawn into discussion of the dominance of Jamaican culture in the Diaspora and why reggae gets to the places soca has yet to reach. “Where Jamaicans are, don’t mess with them,” she states. But she points out how Trinidadians are more flexible, more likely to “fit in” when they live abroad. The term she finally settles on for the Jamaican side of her heritage is “hard core”.

For full article, see http://www.caribbeanintelligence.com/content/stud-life-urban-life-it

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