Thought for the week

The Story of Gamal ‘G’ Turawa in the Bafta Film: The Black Cop

The Guardian documentary "The Black Cop" won Best Short Film at the Bafta this year. It’s an intimate portrait of Gamal 'G’ Turawa, an ex-Metropolitan police officer, and one of our unique and talented associates.

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“it's about finding yourself, taking ownership of your life, and recognising that sometimes we can be our own bully without realising it.”

For 26 years, G worked in the force and became the UK’s first openly gay black police officer. In his early career, he was subjected to racism and as a result, began to racially profile and harass black people to fit in. The film covers both sides of G’s multi-layered story, from agreeing to officers painting him white, to going out and doing more stop and searches on black men to prove he was not like them.

The Black Cop also explores the open homophobia that took place at the Met during the backdrop of the 80s HIV pandemic. G describes how he hid his sexuality by carrying a picture of a pretend ex-wife and child in his wallet.

As an officer, he was on the frontline of workshops given to the police following the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence and was a lecturer on the Home Office Turvey project on Diversity and Inclusion.

We were delighted to speak to G about The Black Cop, discussing the film’s impact, the way his story was told, and the overall process of filming.

1. What does it mean to you to have your story told and recognised in this way?

“I am a great believer in the power of stories and realised many years ago that our stories mean nothing if we don’t allow them to do the work that stories do. Stories are so powerful when we share and tell them. They transform people’s lives, challenge perspectives, fascinate us and connect us to ourselves in so many wonderful ways that enable us to see life and ourselves differently.

I am blessed to be at a stage in my life where I know the power of my story, I have seen first-hand how it impacts people and so I have used it as the foundation of my work for many years, I have told it in many formats, but this was the one that resonated with the most people. To me, that means that the story now has its own path to follow, and it will spark conversations/ debates and reactions in people I will never meet and that excites me. Sharing my story has never been about what it does for me, it’s about what it does for you, and where it takes your thoughts. I feel blessed that I am able to give that to people in whatever format and the story is not over yet. My story is a gift given to me to share with the world in the hope that it makes it a better place and I’m proud of that.”

2. What was it like making the film and what was important to you during the process of filming?

“From conception to release was a five-year roller coaster through various emotions from not believing it would happen to having it released and seeing it gather momentum. I did one day filming the narrative which was a long day. After that, the rest of the filming took place without my input until I then saw the final edit. When I first watched it, I saw it through my own lens as someone who had lived the story and knew what was in and what was missing and trust me there’s a lot more to the story.

I initially wasn’t sure it was ok but that changed the moment I experienced the reactions of audiences at the various screenings and saw how it connected to people across the spectrum of differences in surprising ways.”

3. What impact do you hope your short film will have on the police force and on leadership generally?

“Although the story has the police as part of the vehicle, that is not the theme of the film. It's about finding yourself, taking ownership of your life, and recognising that sometimes we can be our own bully without realising it. It’s about the impact of social conditioning. It’s also a story about compassion, hope, and resilience.

I don’t have a defined impact in mind I just hope, as it's clearly doing, it makes people stop and think about things like banter, connection, and authenticity. My hope is that it sparks conversations taking people to a deeper level of understanding about themselves and others. It's also about the fact that perfection does not exist, we are all carrying something and that it's possible to ride through stuff so be gentle and kind.

For me personally, the film is about growing and evolving and that starts from within ourselves.

The feedback has been phenomenal, I have had some amazing messages and emails from all over the world. It’s been incredible that 98% of them are so positive and 100% were all so emotive. It has given people permission to share their own stories and many of the Q&A screenings turned into just that, powerful story-sharing sessions.

I am one of the lucky ones. I know many that have been destroyed by the weight of their story or tried to bury it with various abuses etc, I get to share mine and use it as a tool for change. How cool is that!

Winning the BAFTA has made my vision of what can be achieved far wider and blown open my beliefs about what is possible. I’m no longer bound to limitations; I am redefining the meaning of limitless and in doing so showing others that it can be done and that feels really life-affirming.”

You can watch The Black Cop Here.

Follow G on Twitter @purplewisdom

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Thursday, May 26, 2022
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