Reviews February 29, 2024
CINE AFRICA - The Kitchen, the Grenfell Tower disaster, and the Windrush Scandal

Grenfell Tower: A Symbol of Systemic Injustice

On June 14, 2017, 72 residents, largely people of color, perished in the Grenfell Tower disaster in London. The tragedy resulted from a toxic mix of factors:

  • Highly flammable exterior cladding that violated building codes
  • Landlords who ignored repeated fire-safety complaints from residents
  • Outlandish claims by builders that flats were fireproof, leading to disastrous evacuation advice

The Grenfell Tower tragedy stands as a stark reminder of corruption in building practices, echoing similar tragedies around the world. This disaster, occurring in such close proximity to immense wealth, makes London a present-day example of dystopian inequality.

The Kitchen: Drawing Dystopian Parallels

A new film, The Kitchen, explores anxieties experienced by immigrants and the working class, offering a chilling parallel to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The film highlights how the failures of those in power can have devastating consequences, closer to home than we imagine.

Official Trailer for The Kitchen (2023)

Daniel Kaluuya - From Grenfell's Shadow to Cinematic Success

Thirty-five minutes from Grenfell Tower is where actor Daniel Kaluuya, himself the son of Ugandan immigrants, grew up in council housing. Kaluuya has achieved remarkable success, with standout roles in Get Out, Nope, and his Oscar-winning performance in Judas and the Black Messiah</em

Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

Kaluuya's debut as producer-co-writer-co-director on The Kitchen, now available to stream on Netflix, marks a powerful new phase in his career.

Teaser for The Kitchen (2023)

The Politics of Housing: From Grenfell to The Kitchen

Government housing has been a source of ongoing controversy in Britain. Margaret Thatcher famously declared council houses "not for the respectable", initiating cutbacks and transfers to the private sector. These shifts have fueled the very problems envisioned in The Kitchen's dystopian future. The film depicts a Britain where social housing has been eliminated, leading to desperate squatting, brutal police raids, and an underclass struggling for survival.

The Kitchen offers a chilling reminder of the potential consequences when those in power prioritize profit over the well-being of their citizens.

Benji (played by Jedaiah Bannerman); Izi (played by Kane Robinson)
Benji (played by Jedaiah Bannerman); Izi (played by Kane Robinson)

The Kitchen's Struggle: Society Divided, Community United

Izi's dreams of a better life in the trendy Buena Vida development put him at odds with the realities of the Kitchen. Benji, orphaned and adrift, finds a chaotic haven within a gang of food-truck hijackers. His unique skill - a giant slingshot - makes him valuable in this fight against a system that has cut off their food supply, leading to desperate measures.

The film evokes the stark social divisions of Blade Runner. Like that iconic film, The Kitchen paints a world where a marginalized community, largely made up of people of color, struggles for survival while the wealthy live in insulated privilege. This divide intensifies the themes of inequality and desperation in both films. Wyatt Garfield's cinematography captures the raw energy and gritty resilience of the Kitchen, contrasting it starkly with the cold opulence beyond its borders.

Themes of Injustice and Survival

The Kitchen explores societal injustices, the power of community, and the desperation born of neglect - themes that resonate with Blade Runner. However, while Blade Runner delves into the existential through a darkly futuristic lens, The Kitchen stays grounded, offering a human-focused lens on the anxieties of today. It compels the viewer to question societal failings and the lengths people go to in order to survive.

The Voice of the Community: Lord Kitchener

Lord Kitchener, played by former Arsenal footballer Ian Wright, serves as the voice of the Kitchen. A guiding figure, he broadcasts warnings, celebrations, and keeps morale alive. This character echoes the DJ roles seen in iconic films like Do the Right Thing and The Warriors, where a unifying voice becomes a powerful tool within communities under pressure.

Ian Wright as Lord Kitchener; Samuel Jackson as Mister Señor Love Daddy
Ian Wright as Lord Kitchener; Samuel Jackson as Mister Señor Love Daddy
Lynne Thigpen as D.J.
Lynne Thigpen as D.J.

The Windrush Generation: Forgotten Loyalty, Shocking Betrayal

The name 'Lord Kitchener' holds deep significance for Afro-Caribbeans in London. The real Lord Kitchener, a musical icon critical of British colonialism, arrived on the Empire Windrush in 1948. He was part of a wave of Black immigrants who helped rebuild Britain after World War II, forever changing London's demographics.

Decades later, their invaluable contributions were cruelly forgotten. The Tories' "hostile environment policy" of 2012 led to the Windrush Scandal: British citizens were wrongly detained, deported, and denied basic rights. Despite public outcry and damning exposés, accountability was scant, and the victims of this injustice remain largely uncompensated.

The Kitchen: Echoes of the Windrush Scandal

The Windrush Scandal is a vital backdrop for understanding The Kitchen's portrayal of a marginalized immigrant community. This history of exploitation and neglect resonates with the film's dystopian vision, offering a chilling reminder of how quickly those in power can turn on the most vulnerable.

Music as Resistance: The Kitchen's Soundtrack

Music plays a powerful role in the world of The Kitchen. Its soundtrack amplifies themes of identity, community, and resilience with a mix of:

  • Afrobeat
  • Grime
  • Music from the African diaspora

Featured songs include:

  • "Holding On" by Tirzah
  • "Kyenkyen Bi Adi M’awu" by Alhaji K Frimpong
  • "Zombie" by Fela Kuti

Daniel Kaluuya: A Talent Behind the Camera

With The Kitchen, Kaluuya steps behind the lens with the same intensity that marks his acting. This directorial debut offers sharp social commentary interwoven with a visually striking and deeply human story. His masterful transition proves him a multi-faceted storyteller, leaving audiences thrilled to see his next project.

Beyond Borders: Systemic Injustice

(Afterthought: While these critiques focus on the UK, similar injustices plague the US. From the Bronx housing fire to anti-immigrant policies, systemic failures echo across borders. Recognizing these global parallels underscores the urgency of fighting for equity everywhere.)

About DJ Henri

dj.henri is a New York City DJ who has performed at iconic venues like Summerstage and the Apollo Theater. He is also the creator of

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