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White Girl (2008)

TV Movie  |   |  Drama  |  10 March 2008 (UK)
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Debbie, a working class single mother from Leeds, moves her family to Bradford, where they find themselves in an ethnic minority. Daughter Leah must adapt to being the only white girl at school.



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Title: White Girl (TV Movie 2008)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Holly Kenny ...
Jay Simpson ...
Elise Johnson ...
Gabrielle Johnson ...
Tariq Jordan ...
Jade Islam ...
Joanna Swain ...
Shaida Chaudhury ...
Miss Shakina
Mohammad Rafique ...
Mr. Iqhal
Perveen Hussain ...
Housing Officer


Debbie lives a poor lifestyle in Britain along with her spouse, and three children, two girls and a boy. The neighborhood is predominantly Islamic and there is a Mosque within a stone's throw of their residence. Foul-mouthed, she finds herself being abused by her spouse, often publicly, and ends up neglecting her children. She, as well as her spouse, are alarmed and shaken when they find out her eldest, Leah, has accepted Islam as her Faith, and when confronted, decides to move out to live with a neighboring Muslim family. Watch what impact this action has on Debbie, the rest of her family, as well as their neighbors. Written by rAjOo (

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User Reviews

Brave attempt to tackle thorny issues of faith, need and belonging
17 April 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This drama on British TV recently was an excellent attempt to get to grips with the extremely thorny topic of the changing make-up of British towns, questions of integration and belonging; of "sleepwalking towards segregation" that Trevor Philips spotlighted not so long ago, and which remain fiercely relevant now. White people in Britain (I'm one) are so used to being the dominant culture that we on the whole can have no idea what it may be like to walk into a room – or a town – and find there's no one like you there. In part, this is what this film is about. But it's almost equally the universal story of an abusive marriage: the waxing and waning of a marriage in trouble, escape from a mean husband, the effects of the trouble on the children. On this basis I was just a tiny bit disappointed. I'd hoped for a little more central engagement with how Leah, the young girl at the centre of this story (excellently played by Holly Kenny), grapples with the practical, day to day issues of integration with the Muslim community. Because I genuinely, really want to hear and watch cultural commentary on this subject, which is in danger of becoming taboo; where we might find points of convergence, and not simply the cold, mutual avoidance and separateness that passes for 'tolerance' in Britain today.

Until recently I lived in an area of East London which was increasingly predominantly made up of Asian communities – the strongest and most visible being the Muslim community. The arrival of the mosque about ten years ago brought great change to a once white stronghold; a faded and run-down strip of High Street was brought to vivid life; men arguing in coffee shops, children running around on prayer day; but also a great sense of the yawning gap between several 'closed' worlds, with occasional tension brewing over the mosque's dominance in the street and the local culture.

In telling the story that it did, I didn't feel that this programme really addressed the gap – but it did devote a whole film to recording it. It's a start. The best (and to me most interesting) scenes by far are those between Leah and her Muslim teacher. More of this would have been welcome: the chance to see real engagement between the two cultures. The scenes where Leah gradually 'finds' her way into the Muslim faith are beautifully handled, and my only regret is that the Asian characters in the film are a little marginalised, like background colour to Leah's world – particularly her temporary 'adoptive' Muslim family. But they're so central to her trajectory that they should be more than mere shadows. The same isn't true of even the marginal members of Leah's white family. There are great moments though: Debbie, Leah's mum (excellently played by Anna Maxwell Martin), with her helpless "no no no NO" as she struggles ineffectively to reject what she doesn't like and can't control in the world around her; Leah's sullen face, utterly alone and outcast on her first day in an all-Muslim school; the teacher patiently explaining aspects of his faith to Leah. The casting and acting were all excellent.

"Yasmin" (2004) was a great drama screened on British TV, about a young Muslim woman living in a northern British ex-industrial town and the choices she makes, and is forced to make, by her surroundings. It was the superior programme, but really there should be more and more films like this, made from all angles: to help us come to terms with a world that changed while we were asleep. As a nation of islanders we're very hypocritical: most of us are immigrants; yet we turn fiercely away from newcomers – at first. I'd love to suggest that our redeeming feature is ultimately acceptance, allowing everyone to get on with life, once the heat of resentment has burned itself out, as it inevitably must? Perhaps this is wishful thinking: if so, meanwhile it won't do any of us any harm to learn a little bit more about the cultures which develop and thrive here. Consider programmes like this as the advance guard: get used to engaging with this world.

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