Mischief Night is a low budget British comedy from the producers of Channel 4’s cult television programme Shameless. It concerns the life of Tina, a working class mother who lives in the North of England. She has several children by different fathers, including Tyler (set to be a drug dealer like his granddad) and Kimberley (who suspects she is half-Asian but doesn't know who her father is). Tina flirts with Pakistani schoolmate Imi who used to be involved in drugs but now leads a clean life with his extended family; which includes young brother Asif (Kimberley's friend, in debt to Asian drug dealer Kasim). In the build up to 'Mischief Night' (a night of orchestrated mayhem by the village youth), tensions between the two communities finally come to a head.
Mischief Night was submitted to the BBFC for classification in August 2006 with no category request from its distributor, Channel 4 Films. The main classification issues were;
- frequent use of strong language
- frequent use of racist language
- drugs and drug references
The examining team for Mischief Night felt that according to the the current BBFC Guidelines, the film could be appropriately placed at the 15 category. The Guidelines at 15 allow for the ‘frequent use of strong language’ and with over 30 uses of the word ‘f**k’ the film was immediately deemed unsuitable at the junior categories; U and PG Guidelines allowing only the use of ‘mild language’ and 12A for the ‘occasional use of strong language’. The examiners were in agreement that the strong language was represented as being common parlance for both adults and children within the urban environment of the film and that it formed an important part in setting the tone of the work and developing characterisations.
The use of racist language was again seen as very much within the context of the film’s theme and setting, serving as a comment on a growing social division between Asian and white communities.
The word ‘Paki’ is used frequently throughout the work, by both children and adult characters in both derogatory and self descriptive senses. Mischief Night shows this division in a negative light, allowing the innocence of a childhood relationship between two of the main characters - Asif and Kimberly – to expose the hypocrisy behind the racial tensions that exist within the community. The BBFC’s policy on works that feature racism as a theme, states that ‘the work as a whole must not endorse racism’. The examining team felt that overall the film dealt with the theme of racism responsibly and appropriately for a 15-year-old audience and in no way endorsed racist attitudes or behaviours.
The drug references that feature throughout the film form part of the backdrop to the narrative and characters’ social situations. For example, Asif crashes into a drug dealer's car and as a result is forced to sell his drugs for him; the older Tyler finds 'smack' (heroin) and sets up his own business selling it; and the next door neighbour is hooked on heroin and shown to be neglecting her baby (she is described as ‘the lowest of the low’ for being a ‘junkie mum’). The audience sees a brief shot of her with a lighter under a spoon and then relaxing with a tourniquet around her arm. However, the examiners felt that this level of detail was unlikely to teach a 15-year-old how to intravenously take drugs. Asif is seen smoking marijuana on a couple of occasions, although the second time we see him smoking he is admonished by his 'girlfriend' Kimberly. The examiners felt that Asif's use of drugs was symbolic of the run-down environment in which he lives. Overall, it was felt that the portrayal of illegal drugs in the film was negative, supported by several anti-drugs comments offered by key characters. In keeping within the BBFC’s 15 Guidelines, the work was found to neither promote nor glamorise drugs.
Mischief Night was also passed 15 on DVD and was selected as part of National Schools Film Week 2007.