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Young activists replace white casts with black leads on film posters around the capital

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Earlier this week, Legally Black activist group launched a photo campaign in the capital to forefront the lack of black representation in film and media. A total of seven posters were erected in Brixton bus stops in the early hours of Wednesday morning (28th Feb), depicting recreated images of films such as Harry Potter, Titanic, as well as popular television series The Inbetweeners and Skins ­­– all of which had the original cast swapped for black actors.

and finally, with love: #BLACKKIDSCANBEWIZARDSTOO

A post shared by LegallyBlack (@legallyblackuk) on

Four young people (Liv Francis-Cornibert, Shiden Tekle, Bel Matos da Costa, and Kofi Asante) are behind the artwork, working alongside Legally Black and subversive advertising company Special Patrol Group to “combat the way black people are portrayed in the media”. The decision to transform iconic posters consequently challenges people’s perceptions and assumptions, striking up conversation about diversity in the industry.

The reflection provoking work undoubtedly seems timely with the 90th Academy Awards being held this weekend; especially after 2016’s #OscarsSoWhite social campaign forcing Hollywood to recognise diversity issues on screen. Alongside this, the recent release of Marvel’s Black Panther rather celebrated the step in the right direction from major companies.

Black Panther has been widely recognised for its positive contribution to equal representation in the media, arguably making it more of a movement than solely a movie. More significantly, seeing the underrepresented in archetypal roles is largely important for any person of the minority, assisting in giving rise to social awareness. However, the issue of lack of representation of African-Americans, amongst others, has been one long before Black Panther and Legally Black’s campaign. Research by the British Film Institute (BFI) shows that black actors performed in only 218 lead roles in the 1,172 British films release between 2006-2016 – an incredibly low statistic.

Despite this, Daniel Kaluuya’s performance in sardonic horror Get Out earned him an Oscar nomination, whilst also receiving Rising Star Award at this year’s BAFTAs. Whilst his British nationality is widely known, he is largely portrayed as African American in his obtained roles, also appearing as a Wakanda native in Black Panther.

With these young individuals shining a light on the debate in Brixton - an aptly chosen location considering it as a predominantly black area of the capital consistently facing influence by gentrification - the project is an innovative statement to recreate a dialogue around not only underrepresentation but also misrepresentation. Whilst the posters are somewhat satirical, the influence of a black cast can come as a surprise when the mediums are stripped of their original depiction – raising the argument that if you’re surprised it means you don’t see enough black people in major roles.

In its short period, the posters have initiated discussion on social media. However, by Friday 2nd March, most of the posters had been removed and replaced with advertisements for global companies such as McDonald’s, ultimately making the debate of underrepresentation ever more pertinent.

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