We held a special Black History Month ALLinspiration session last week, where we were joined by Sitting in Limbo: director and Bafta Rising Star, Stella Corradi, and editor and documentary film-maker, Lee Mckarkiel.
Sitting in Limbo tells the story of the Windrush scandal through the real experiences of a Jamaican-born British man, Anthony Bryan, one of its victims, who was forcibly detained without the knowledge of his family.
Our conversation traversed the shocking realities of the drama; and also the systemic racism that has prevailed in filmmaking and the creative industries. Here’s a summary of our conversation…
Sitting in Limbo is a powerful drama, shocking because it is based on a true story – can you tell us about Anthony, and what prompted you and the BBC to tell his story?
(S) The BBC commissioned it from Leftbank Pictures, the group behind The Crown. They were working with Stephen S Thompson, the writer and brother of Anthony Bryan. The scandal had broken the year before, so the goal was to complete the project in just six months to get the message out, hold the government accountable and push for compensation.
(L) There was a lot of pressure, particularly to be impartial with regards to the current government and that made the creative process, especially in the edit, very tough. We couldn’t show the suicides that had occurred because of this scandal, or police using excessive force in the prisons.
What was the impact of the film?
(S) We were supposed to air in March and it got pushed because of Covid and lockdown, to June. We were upset about that because we thought it would be unseen.
Then June became the height of the global BLM protests. There was this incredible alchemy at play, that the film ended up being aired at that time, revealing black injustice to be more than a US issue alone. So many people knew of the Windrush scandal but had no idea it went to this extent.
What was the government’s response?
(S) The BBC were quite brave in airing when they did because there was a lot of pressure from the Home Office. They wanted to try and block it through legal challenges.
Priti Patel called Janet and Anthony on the day it was aired – four years after his arrests! They said they were too busy.
The film also kickstarted the government’s compensation movement, though it has not gone far enough by any means.
A lack of representation is an issue in filmmaking and the related creative industries What issues has this caused for you, and what is in our power to change?
(L) One of the biggest challenges for black creators is the credit system in filmmaking. You have to have a certain number of credits for filmmaking roles. But to help you get into those situations, the representations at the power level that you need just aren’t really there.
(S) It is changing now, with the movement. I was a bit sceptical at first, but I know black people that have been put into executive positions recently. Having that presence, and personal commitment to diverse storytelling will create much-needed change.
What was Anthony’s reaction to the film?
(S) Anthony was super happy, which was the only thing we really all needed to feel in the end. And in getting government compensation for the victims of course. So much more is still needed to be done there.
Details of how you can help below.
Thank you, Stella, and Lee
- You can watch Sitting in Limbo on BBC iPlayer
- Help other families like Anthony through a donation to the Joint Council for The Welfare of Immigrants which provides legal advice and resources to people impacted by the Windrush Scandal.
- This conversation was aired across WPP by WPP Roots, which is striving for greater, authentic representation within our business, and output.