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29 October 2014
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15Emotional Backgammon (2003)

updated 22 August 2003
reviewer's rating
1 out of 5
Reviewed by Jamie Russell


Director
Leon Herbert
Writer
Leon Herbert
Matthew Hope
Stars
Leon Herbert
Wil Johnson
Daniela Lavender
Jacqueline de Peza
John Herbert
Length
TBC minutes
Distributor
Odeon/Buccaneer
Cinema
29 August 2003
Country
UK
Genre
Drama
Web Links
Visit the official website



"Emotional Backgammon" is an example of a very rare thing in British cinema: a film by a black writer-director.

Filmmaker Leon Herbert has been grafting and haranguing for four long years to get his vision on the screen, even taking part in Channel 4's Movie Virgins series - which contrasted his film with Alexander Jovy's club land thriller "Sorted" - for some extra publicity.

Given such determination in the face of adversity, it would be a nice to be able to say that "Emotional Backgammon" is a diamond hiding in the rough, or even a half decent feature. The truth is, it's neither.

Technical limitations aside, what really stands out here is the woeful quality of the acting, the cloyingly overbearing soundtrack that deadens each scene and the script's dubious, unironic and completely uninterrogated sexual politics.

As Steve, a 40-something London actor, Herbert coaches his best friend John (Wil Johnson from BBC series Babyfather) about how to play the love game. He does this using a backgammon board to illustrate the strategies John needs to adopt to win back his Brazilian girlfriend Mary (Daniela Lavender).

Meanwhile, Steve has picked up a role in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, an incidental plot point, but one which pretty much sums up this film's understanding of the war between the sexes.

With a script that styles women as scheming 'bitches', and men as deluded sufferers of 'P.W.S.' ('Pussy Withdrawal Syndrome'), "Emotional Backgammon" multiplies Elizabethan sexism tenfold, holding off on the traditional wife-beating, but building up to a schizo-psycho climax that's probably the most misogynist cinematic take on the emasculating female since "Fatal Attraction".

British cinema - and Black British cinema - deserves a far better standard bearer than this clunking, and offensive, drama.

Find out more about "Emotional Backgammon" at
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