100% White is a powerful portrait of men trapped on the margins of society. Leo Regan’s subjects, Colin, Neil and Nick, may have left their neo-Nazi gang behind, but shedding their own fear, hatred and violence is a far harder task.
Former leader Neil, who describes stabbing someone as “too easy, like getting butter out of a tub”, now seeks counselling to control his violent tendencies. Colin left the gang because “you’ve got to look after your family before you can sort out your country”, but demonstrates his paternalism by assaulting his wife and forbidding his children to have black schoolfriends. Nick has befriended a black man but still “can’t get on with Asians.” All three miss the camaraderie of the gang, the powerful identity and sense of belonging now so patently absent from their lives.
Like Alan Clarke’s groundbreaking drama Made in Britain, Regan achieves the difficult task of humanising men whose views and actions are both reprehensible and frightening. At the same time, he never lets his subjects off the hook, challenging them even at personal risk. His only weapon, and best defence, is a disarming openness, which extends from subject to form.
Unlike traditional ‘observational’ documentaries, where the film-maker remains hidden behind a veil of so-called ‘objectivity’, Regan throws himself into the situation as an active participant, offering his opinions and leaving his questions on the soundtrack. As the effects of filming are foregrounded (particularly the way Regan’s presence influences Colin’s wife Karla, and Neil’s girlfriend Charlene) 100% White becomes a video diary of the interaction between film-maker and subject – hand-held, messy, personal.. That these paranoid men reveal so much and that we, as viewers, care so much, is testament to Regan’s skill and compassion.