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August 23, 2015

Film + EntertainmentReview | by Francesco Cerniglia

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Having previously looked at the reggae music movement in The Story of Lovers Rock (2011), Menelik Shabazz now turns his gaze to the universally perplexing topic of love in his latest documentary, Looking for Love, where we encounter an assortment of views and comments specifically focusing on the disastrous state of affairs of love within the 21st century black community worldwide.

Opening on the overtly sexualized Carnival where filming began in 2013 we are transported to and fro from this celebration of unashamed sexuality to the harsh reality of those faced with the hardship of finding love.

The new world’s definition of romance is dissected in sometimes comedic style whilst the politics that still surround gender are confronted with unabashed criticism. Featuring commentary by comedienne, Andi Osho and psychologist, Dr. Umar Johnson this documentary truly engages every facet of this community in its search for a universal definition of what love is.

Any doubts you had about Shabazz’s unofficial title as godfather of British Contemporary Black Cinema fade away as the filmmaker’s gentle questioning opens up his interviewees, resulting in something truly enlightening: from the blissful retellings of true love by retired couple Alex and Joyce Pascal to the painfully sensitive bruises of those who fell victim of abuse within their family, generations apart.

Whilst this documentary may not offer the answers, it does offer a glimpse of a community fragmented along the lines of outdated expectations. With brutal honesty these fault lines are revealed and investigated. A community where self-worth has been downplayed and a desire to cling onto any sense of identity forged from the fragments of historical figures now stands in stark contrast with the new selfie-taking culture where self-love has become almost inherent.

Looking for Love might have a few comedic snapshots but ultimately seeks to answer a serious question, whose apparent lack of an answer is reaping hazardous results. Despite offering a quickfire solution, it does point out that a lack of self-love is a major contributor to this problem.

In closing, as Queen Latifah said, “When I was around 18, I looked in the mirror and said: you’re either going to love yourself or hate yourself. And I decided to love myself. That changed a lot of things.

Looking For Love is in UK cinemas from August 21st

Matthew Hoy