#Film Review: Netflix’s Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story (2017)

Director: Jon Carey and Adam Darke

Rating: 4/5

Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story has been on Netflix for a month or two, and it is definitely worth watching.

The film has value as a historical record of life of Justin Fashanu, the first English footballer to sign a million pound contract, and social developments in the UK and to an extent wider world, as well as sociological value for addressing childhood as an underlying problem of the present.

For those who do not know, Justin was the first footballer to publicly admit he was gay and that has pretty much ruined not just his career but his life too. He made a bold statement in “The Sun” about his orientation after many years of speculation, and this has immediately cost him football career in the UK. He continued the career in the US and Canada, and then later he was back to the UK again when things settled a bit and when the movement for LGBT rights started to gain more prominence in the public sphere, but things were never the same.

Justin’s mother abandoned him and his brother by leaving them in an orphanage, and Justin never got over the fact that it was just the two of them who got abandoned and not everyone else. His sister appears in the film, and it is clear that there was no deep connection between her and Justin. His mother appears in the film several times as well, and all the way to the end she still does not get it. She kept insisting that it was better for him to be with a good white family that gave him better care, obviously oblivious to the fact nothing can replace or cover up the sense of abandonment and betrayal. However, this is not all. His beloved brother John, also a famous footballer has abandoned him when he publicly admitted he was guy, just that towards the end of the film he regrets what he has done and cries.

The film uses lots of archival materials, media coverage in particular. We get to see statements of politicians of the time about gay rights, which testifies of the painful struggle LGBT movement had to go through to get the rights they have today. Speeches of British PM and some Conservative MPs are disgraceful. It really is difficult to be a conservative sometimes and one really gets to wonder whether a new movement is needed, i.e some form of political option for those of us who are pro-business (and thus do not want to have anything to do with the Labour Party), but absolutely detest these statements on tradition, values and human rights. People judge me when I say I liked David Cameron but his statements seem entirely unconnected from the Conservative party of the time, but also of the present sometimes.

Justin’s life was a life of running away and trying to find his way under the sun, however, it was also a life of persecution. He was one of the only two black boys in a small village in England (his brother being the second boy) and he had to deal with being the only black player in the local football club when his career started. At the time, people were demonstrating against different cultures and did not want to see emancipation and inclusion of people they perceived as a threat to their culture and way of living. The same with gays later on, it was again a threat to values and tradition. Justin stood at the front of both of those movements. Ultimately, he committed a suicide after being accused of raping a young boy. The boy appears in then film now as a grown up man, and looks genuinely upset justifying he did not expect Justin to commit a suicide but rather wanted justice to be served. Two lives ruined basically.

The film concludes with analysis of Justin’s troubled life and the fact he was not able to deal with potential of prison, and the fact he may have committed an assault in the first place. As the film correctly observes, childhood traumas define who we are today and Justin was one person on one day and an entirely different person the next day because of these traumatic events. However, in a patriarchal society that looks down at people who seek therapy it is really no wonder that some people end up troubled even more because of unresolved issues from the past and reluctance to seek help because of the fear of judgement.

All in all, a very good film with lots of speakers and archival materials that testify of the difficult history of LGBT movement in the UK and the prejudices Blacks were facing when first entering the public sphere and traditional domains reserved previously for whites only such as football. The only thing that could have been explored in further details is Black activism. While this is mentioned at the beginning of the film, it has not been explored in details. I would have liked to know in more depth how Justin associated with Black’s struggle for equality and to what extent being black affected his personality.

Thank you for reading.

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