Hundreds gather for screening of La Haine at Broadwater Farm

Film about rioting on streets of Paris resonates with audience on estate where Mark Duggan grew up

In the shadows of the carpark on the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, north London, three young men sit in a car, hoods over their heads, eyes down on their BlackBerrys. Another balances on his bike by the open window. A few paces away a queue is beginning to form outside the estate's community centre for a showing of the French film La Haine – which starts with images of angry young men rioting on the streets of Paris and ends with one of the main characters being shot by police.

"I don't understand why they are showing a film like that here, it's peak," says one of the young men, explaining for the Guardian's benefit that "peak" means "a bit terrible". Asked why, he says, as though to a child: "Our friend was shot by a police officer, why would you show that on our turf?"

The film – shown on the eve of London's mayoral election in the area of London where the shooting of Mark Duggan sparked riots that spread through the country – is undoubtedly provocative. The event is the brainchild of Future Cinema, an interactive film company which usually limits itself to showing classic movies to dressed-up clientele, who partnered with residents on the estate. Fabien Riggall, founder of Future Cinema is unapologetic about the film's content. "This is a film that still resonates," he says. "The problems that caused what happened last year have not necessarily been dealt with. But I think showing this film could inspire people to provoke and question in other ways than violence."

Speaking earlier from Los Angeles, the film's director, Mathieu Kassovitz, dismissed the suggestion that the film could spark trouble. "What we do is raise consciousness and help people stay awake, and that bothers politicians," he said. "These guys are taking a stand and saying, we have not forgotten what happened in Tottenham. It is a moment to remember, but it is being remembered in a creative way."

In the buzzing halls of the community centre it is clear who is running the project. Volunteer security guards from the estate, wander around the building. Local women give out wrist bands for entry with a smile, and everybody tucks in to the jerk chicken on offer. Among the breakdancers and the graffiti artists, there are no shortage of hipsters. But there are also estate residents, young and old. "There are a lot of warm-hearted people there, and that's a good thing on a notorious estate," says one 24-year-old. A 28-year-old who gives his name as Arcane G adds: "No-one speaks on the roads anymore, this is bringing people together, getting them to interact."

Issac Densu, a Broadwater Farm resident who has co-organised the event in partnership with Future Cinema, says it has "energised" the estate. "There is a lot of anger in the community but now we have to look at ways of channelling it." he says. "Last year we rioted and we still got no answers, now its about being educated in our argument." Densu aims to carry on showing films at the estate, and has created a production company called Outreach Films to develop local talent. "As a community we have to take responsibility for ourselves. There is no point pointing your finger at the government, it just gets pointed right back at you," he says. Before the film starts he tells the audience: "You want things to change? Vote tomorrow."

Before the screening begins in the hanger-like sports hall, mesmerising rapper-poet Akala has a room of 400 people focussing on his rapid lyrics. "Revolution is not beyond reach," he spits to applause. Local boxer Daniel Soares, stripped to the waist, pounds a punchbag in one corner and on scaffolding either side of the giant screen stand graffiti artists. By the time the film starts one has finished a pair of angel wings, R.I.P scrawled above them. The film starts to roll with images of Paris burning, looting and rioters beaten by police, its soundtrack, played live by Asian Dub Foundation, throbbing through the hall. For the next few hours, no one moves. But as the film finishes and residents stream out of the door back into the estate, Gary Williams, 40, who had earlier done security for the event, comes over to make his point. "You see, it was a good atmosphere, a good turnout, no trouble," he says. "The Farm is not what people think it is, we're not animals."


Alexandra Topping

The GuardianTramp

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