Synopsis by Mark Deming
One man's attempt to help the less fortunate drives him to the edge of madness in this satiric comedy drama from director Ngozi Onwurah. Joe Pascale (David Oyelowo) is an intelligent and idealistic black man living in London who has a high-paying job with a bright future ahead of him. Joe, however, believes he has a responsibility to people less fortunate than himself, and he quits his job to take a position as a teacher in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood dominated by poor blacks. Naïvely assuming his new students will welcome him with open arms, Joe quickly discovers most of his charges have little interest in learning and don't much care for him, thinking of him as a slumming yuppie whose demeanor is more "white" than "black." Joe gets tough with his students through techniques he calls "enforced education," with detention and harsh punishments doled out to kids who refuse to obey. But one of Joe's students, Germal (Charles Mnene), decides to turn the tables by accusing Joe of beating him up. Joe is outraged when most in the community supports Germal rather than himself, and he's fired by the school once the story becomes a cause célèbre in the media. Joe starts losing touch with reality and blames all of his problems on blacks, who he feels have turned their back on him and his talents. After ending up homeless, Joe begins facing his problems by seeing a counselor named Heather (Nikki Amuka Bird), but falling in love with her leads to a new set of emotional dilemmas for him. Shoot the Messenger was screened in competition at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.