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Shoot the Messenger

World Premiere

U.K. | 90 MINUTES | English |


Disturbed by the problems within his own community, hopeful but naïve black Londoner Joe Pascale decides to become personally involved by sacrificing his high-paying tech job to become a teacher at an urban high school. In order to improve the future prospects of his students, he utilizes a philosophy of "enforced education," determined to make these teens learn whether they want to or not. But when Germal, one of his most difficult pupils, accuses Joe of assault, the black community backs the teen, branding Joe as a traitor and further humiliating him by demanding his dismissal. Fixated on the idea that all black people are out to get him, Joe rapidly descends into madness and ultimately finds himself destitute. Eventually, the God-fearing Mabel brings him into her home, but even her kindness and generosity do nothing to quell Joe's fear and hatred of black people. In an attempt to repair his life, Joe visits a job center where he develops a friendship with his counselor, the new-age devotee Heather. As the two fall in love and their relationship progresses, Joe has difficulty accepting certain things about Heather: her woven hair, her insecurities, and especially her black friends. Ultimately he is forced to confront his issues with Germal, Heather, and his entire community. A bold and daring feature by Ngozi Onwurah, Shoot the Messenger takes a startling look at race relations and identity, exploring one man's frustrations with his own community and with himself.


Directed by Ngozi Onwurah

Ngozi Onwurah has directed several episodes of the top British TV drama series Heartbeat and also written and directed the prize-winning feature Welcome II the Terrordome. Sometimes fierce (Terrordome), other times humorous (I Bring You Frankincense), Onwurah tackles the clashes and ironies of the gulf separating black and white while showing that no matter what one's skin color is, emotions are universal. Onwurah's films have won prizes at the Berlin Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, and the NBPC.