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Good at Art (1983)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Good at Art (1983)
DirectorHorace Ové
Production CompanyBBC Pebble Mill
ProducerPeter Ansorge
Script EditorCaroline Oulton
ScriptFarrukh Dhondy
LightingBarry Chatfield
DesignerNigel Jones

Cast: Tanveer Ghani (Fariz); Linda Slater (Kim); Salmaan Peer (Salim)

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Encouraged by his new art teacher, Fariz paints a portrait of his classmate Kim. But as his interest in Kim grows, he finds he has a rival from a surprising quarter.

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Good at Art (BBC, tx. 4/11/1983) begins Horace Ové's preoccupation with the conflict experienced by black British artists as they struggle to remain true to their own unique visions while confronting the limited expectations imposed on them by their culture and the wider racist society. He was to explore the theme further, with the same lead actor, Tanveer Ghani, in Moving Portraits (Channel 4, tx. 29/7/1987).

Here it is played out in a tightly focused television play - framed within an austere and dimly lit studio set. Mr Coles (John Justin), the conservative art teacher of an inner-city comprehensive, is retiring. The gift of a pencil drawing from favourite student Fariz (Tanveer Ghani), provokes Mr Coles into a reflection on the craft and on wider changes anticipated at the school's art department.

The new art teacher, Salim (Salmaan Peer), is altogether different. A Pakistani with the wonder and emotional intensity of a child, he engages the attention of students by exposing them to the richness of artists with singular, intense visions, such as Picasso. Salim wants this level of commitment from the students.

His energy and humour are infectious and enliven the students, who reluctantly warm to him, despite their earlier dismissal of him as a funny 'Paki'. Fariz, however, keeps his distance. Salim attempts to talk him about art and politics at 'home' (the sub-continent) and to encourage him to be more ambitious and paint in oils.

Fariz appears indifferent but is beginning to explore other possibilities in a new world opening up to him beyond the old certainties imparted by Mr Coles. This includes blonde fellow student, Kim (Linda Slater). Unlike the other pupils, she appears to be interested in Fariz's culture and his art.

Fariz paints a portrait of Kim, which Salim commends as being of the highest quality. For Kim, the portrait captures an inner essence and she opens up to the painter about her emotional desires since she believes he must understand her. Fariz becomes hopeful.

The death of his old teacher jolts Fariz. On the morning of his funeral, Fariz visits Salim's house and is flattered to find his portrait of Kim commanding centre stage in the living room. As Salim readies himself, Kim, in her dressing gown, descends from their shared bedroom. It is drizzling as they bury Mr Coles. It is the death of Fariz's first love.

Onyekachi Wambu

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Video Clips
1. Ways of seeing (4:05)
2. Fariz and Kim (1:55)
3. A proposal (3:59)
Dhondy, Farrukh (1944-)
Ové, Horace (1939-)