BBC1 needs applauding for recently broadcasting the powerful Welsh docudrama THE LEFT BEHIND.
This is because the subject matter it dealt with was the contentious issue of the current rise of the far-right movement in Great Britain. Made by the same people behind the award winning Killed By My Debt, this one-off drama attempted to detail some of the underlying causes as to why people join such a movement and come to hold such views. As producer Aysha Rafaele stated about the aim of the programme, it was to air ‘’voices you don’t ordinarily hear’’ to the fore.
Very reminiscent in parts to the critically acclaimed 2016 Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake, one of the main themes in this production was that of hopelessness.
The lead character is Gethin (Sion Daniel Young), who we see start off on a zero-hours contract working in a local chicken and chips shop. He thus has no job security, no housing security and the social services offer no way of helping him. The latter aspect especially had strong similarities to I, Daniel Blake.
However, it was some of these scenes in the housing department in The Left Behind, that made me lose my suspension-of-disbelief slightly. I am talking here about when a variety of anonymous characters spoke directly down the lens of the camera. It may have been a directorial decision to try and create greater impact and realism, but it did not work for me.
This programme needs praising for not dehumanising Gethin and his friends, the ones who held far-right views. It would have been so easy to have created far-right stereotypes who were unbelievable. Instead, and especially in the case of Gethin, we got a well-rounded character that had likeable qualities.
The Left Behind was powerful throughout as well moving, without ever once glorifying violence or far-right views. A haunting quality of it was based on the research that went into the making of it. Writer Alan Harris noted an emotive phrase that featured in this drama that was, ‘’don’t become a ghost’’. Expanding upon this, Harris explains that some people feel that isolated and cut-off from society that they fear feeling as invisible as a ghost.
All the main cast were superb in this. As well Sion Daniel Young, Amy-Leigh Hickman who played Gethin’s Muslim neighbour Yasmin, gave a stellar performance.
I guess you could be slightly critical of this drama, in the sense that none of Gethin’s far-right views were really challenged by anybody. That said, the makers here were trying to paint a realistic portrayal of a section of society rather than say make a fair balanced episode of Question Time.
Another possible criticism you argue about this is whether all far-right extremists, are poor and working-class in origin as the drama indicated they are? Furthermore, is hopelessness the only possible explanation out there for such radicalisation I wondered at the end?
Nonetheless, in the main this was a well-made piece of work given its somewhat taboo subject matter. It was strong and it was extremely powerful in impact.
- You can catch up on BBC iPlayer.