Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Killed By My Debt (2018)

Another sobering film from BBC3's Murdered By My...strand, Killed By My Debt stars Chance Perdomo in the real life story of Jerome Rogers, a twenty-year-old who was driven to suicide by the extreme escalation of two parking fines and the stresses of working on a zero hours contract.

Out of all the Murdered By My...films, Killed By My Debt was perhaps the one that got under my skin on a personal level. As a production, it may not have been as strong as Murdered By My Boyfriend or Murdered By My Father (though I must point out that I still haven't seen Murdered For Being Different, because the Sophie Lancaster case is one that really upsets me as it is) but unlike those two examples, this explored an area I could easily see myself falling into. As a white heterosexual male, I am not going to be killed by an abusive boyfriend, nor am I going to be a victim of an 'honour' killing, but I know that I can be in a position where I am just a step away from debt. As such, Killed By My Debt was close to home. 

Unfortunately, I don't think Killed By My Debt punched upwards though. I appreciate that Jerome's family are, quite rightly, alligning themselves with debt charities in a campaign to reform bailiff agency practices and the debt collection industry as a whole, but in supporting this overall message the drama here lets the real culprits off scot-free. This needed to be more politically motivated to strike home accurately. 

Dramas like this need to challenge the fact that it is the government's fault that zero hour contracts are allowed to exist, placing 4.5 million people in the UK in insecure work, and that their austerity measures are ensuring that 3.3 million are in severe debt. It is the government and political class whose callousness is the issue here. Jerome may have come into contact with faceless debt agency call centre operatives and the bailiff (played here by Craig Parkinson) charged with seizing his bike, but these are the front line of an institutionalised problem - unable to be blamed for causing the problem (indeed, the coroner in Jerome's case found that the bailiff acted lawfully) and unable to solve the problem either. Drama unfortunately portrays things in black and white, and Parkinson's bailiff, singing 'Every Breath You Take' under his breath as he enters the scene was an all too obvious cipher to hang the black hat upon amidst a series of sequences that showed ethernet cables and ominous council computers acting as judge, jury and executioner on Jerome's case. It's a shame to be so hands-off - the real culprits appear daily on the TV news.

Killed By My Debt is currently available to watch on the BBC3 iPlayer.

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