On 26 January, the BFI and Wikipedia held a Wikipedia Editathon in the on London’s South Bank. The focus was British black and Asian films and filmmakers, with a list of key films, filmmakers and writers established in advance. This subject was inspired by the BFI’s new three ticks diversity guidelines for film funding, which are aimed at improving on-screen and off-screen diversity within the film sector, including BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) diversity.
All afternoon the editors used the books, articles and digitised press cuttings in the BFI Reuben Library to create new Wikipedia pages as well as improve existing articles. They had support from three of the major figures in this area of British filmmaking, who very kindly gave their time to support the event: Stephen Bourne (author of a major book on this subject, Black in the British Frame), June Givanni (curator of the Pan African Cinema Archive), Imruh Bakari (filmmaker, writer and academic, co-founder of the Ceddo film and video workshop) and film and theatre writer Suman Bhuchar.
Among the newly created and published Wikipedia articles are one on Imruh Bakari himself (a unique opportunity for article writer and subject to discuss the references available in the Library’s collection), Udayan Prasad (director of My Son the Fanatic, 1997), Lionel Ngakane’s pioneering 1966 film Jemima + Johnny, John Akomfrah’s Handsworth Songs (1986) and Newton Aduaka’s Rage (2000). Other articles are being prepared for publication, including one on tap-dancing duo Scott & Whaley.
Some existing articles were improved during the event, with editors adding links to actors and filmmakers, correcting inaccuracies and generally adding substance. Improved articles include The Proud Valley (starring Paul Robeson, 1940), The Little Ones (1965), Bhaji on the Beach (1993) and John Akomfrah (director of Handsworth Songs and The Stuart Hall Project).
Finally, an article was created for the BFI Production Board, which made a major contribution to black and Asian filmmaking in the UK, funding work by Chadha, Akomfrah and Isaac Julien among others.
With a similar editathon planned in New York soon, it’s hoped that the momentum generated by the BFI event may continue in the area of black and Asian filmmaking, in particular in cases such as Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston (1989) where it crosses over with the US context.