A British contribution to films involving black artists set in ethnically mixed London.


David Gyari


One always tends to be suspicious when a film’s release is held back for some years and Sean Spencer’s first feature, Panic, was made in 2014. However, the timing of its release this November is apt given the fact that BFI Southbank is in the midst of its Black Star season and given too the wider focus at present on the limited opportunities that British and American cinema offers to those who are not white.

To his credit, Sean Spencer is a black man who, as writer and director, got this film made regardless of those obstacles and it gives a lead role to the London-born David Gyari whose family come from Ghana. Panic is set in Tottenham and Gyari is very much screen centre as music journalist Andrew Deeley. We find him living in a high block which gives him a view (aided by binoculars) of a Chinese girl in an apartment opposite. This set-up inevitably brings Rear Window to mind and also, perhaps, Kieslowski’s A Short Film about Loving (1988). Echoes of such fine films tend to overshadow Panic which may have been influenced too by the work of Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things of 2002 which he wrote and the more recent Hummingbird which he wrote and directed). However, Panic is in its own right an interesting if hardly exceptional debut.

As the film develops, what starts out with the mystery of the kidnapping of Andrew’s neighbour becomes a tale of illegal immigrants and the unscrupulous exploitation of Asian girls forced into prostitution. What could have come across as also being exploitative on the part of the filmmaker does no such thing here, but there are times when the plot development seems unlikely. Furthermore, when the story is told so much from Andrew Deeley's viewpoint (the audience being invited to identify with him) one cannot but feel that it is a bit of a cheat that certain key facts about him (including why he is feeling traumatised) should be held back until late in the narrative.

Nevertheless, this is a debut worth noting with Gyari well cast in the central role. But what impresses most of all is the understanding that Spencer shows for the ’Scope format. The placing of Gyari in the frame achieves an intimate feeling, while elsewhere the extra space of the wide screen is used most intelligently to suggest among other things the loneliness of life in the big impersonal city.




Cast: David Gyari, Pippa Nixon, Yennis Cheung, Jason Wong, Cristian Solimeno, Chi Chan, Orion Lee, Vera Chok.


Dir Sean Spencer, Pro Oliver Gray, Nuala O'Leary and Joe Wihl, Screenplay Sean Spencer, Ph Carl Burke, Pro Des Luke Hull, Ed Kate Coggins, Music Christopher Nicholas Bangs, Costumes Yann Seabra.


White Night Films-Trinity Film.
85 mins. UK. 2014. Rel: 18 November 2016. Cert. 15.