Dalston Cinema showcases documentary about Seni Lewis's death in police custody
- Credit: Daisy Ifama
The Rio Cinema in Dalston hosted a screening of a selection of short films produced by The Guardian, including the documentary RIP SENI.
23-year-old Olaseni Lewis, known as Seni, was killed after being restrained by 11 police officers in 2010.
Lewis was a recent IT graduate who was suffering from mental ill-health and had admitted himself for treatment by a South London hospital.
Despite a guilty verdict, none of the police officers faced repercussions for their role in Seni’s death. They were found to have used "excessive force" which led to Seni's death.
Ten years later at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020, graffiti art with the critical statement ‘RIP SENI’ was sprayed in red paint over a piece of public artwork outside the Bethlem Royal Hospital, London.
The original art piece probed questions about mental capacity and assessment.
The red spray-painted letters are at the heart of the chilling documentary, provoking conversations about justice and police conduct.
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Director Daisy Ifama explains the frustration which arises when individuals solely direct their anger at police brutality in America.
Ifama confirms that this is also a problem in the UK: “the levels are unbearably high and sinister”.
A 2020 IOPC report found that half of the deaths in police custody in the UK that year were linked to people having mental health concerns.
According to the charity INQUEST there have been 1800 deaths in police custody since 1990.
Ifama speaks in a tone of admiration regarding Seni’s mother Ajibola Lewis, who has been “applying pressure and remaining persistent, because the institutions really do rely on you losing your momentum”.
In 2018 Labour MP Steve Reed helped implement Seni’s Law, which requires psychiatric hospitals to train staff in de-escalation methods to minimise the use of restraint, and to keep records of when force is used.
Although the event at Rio cinema was held last month, The Guardian documentaries platform allows free access. It will also be featured at the London Short Film festival in January.
Find it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrdGTkfSyw0