Black British Film

Pressure
Pressure

Black British Film, a term used here to describe films made by black-British filmmakers or which have a particular focus on the experiences of black British people, has had a significant impact on our national cinema and offers a valuable insight into UK history. This list is not definitive but highlights some of the fundamental titles available in the Into Film catalogue - from the first film made by a black-British filmmaker, to more contemporary works from newer filmmaking voices such as Amma Asante and Shola Amoo.

Some of the films in this list explore issues such as racism, class discrimination and gentrification, and are an accessible way to introduce difficult yet necessary discussions with young people from all backgrounds. These titles also bring to the forefront the history of black-British resistance, activism and initiative to create more meaningful and varied representation - from a period drama on the first black subject to share an equal eyeline to a white subject in a European painting, to a young Londoner protesting for education and employment rights.

Pressure

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration120 mins

Pressure(1976)

Widely considered to have kick-started black British cinema, this 1970s film focuses on a black school leaver well-qualified but unable to find a job.

Known as the first feature film to be directed by black director in the UK, the film tells the story of a teenager who leaves school with strong qualifications but struggles to find a job and becomes aware of the roles racism and classism play in society. Shot on a low-budget and with a cast of mostly non-professional actors, the film is a snapshot of 70s West London.

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Babylon

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration91 mins

Babylon (1980)

A coming-of-age tale about two rival reggae crews in South London that captures an important moment in British social history.

Also exploring the lives and struggles of the Windrush generation, the film was released at the start of the Thatcher Era and focuses on the struggles of young Caribbean men dealing with poverty, police brutality and lack of employment. The film is a social commentary of a defining moment in British history, alongside discussions on the British press and inner city life.

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Jemima + Johnny

CertUnclassified

Age group7+

Duration30 mins

Jemima + Johnny(1966)

A short British film exploring race relations in post-riots Notting Hill in the 1960s through the friendship of a little girl and boy.

This short film was directed by South African anti-Apartheid activist Lionel Ngakane. Filmed in 1960s Notting Hill, London, the film’s simple story of a friendship between two children highlights the racial tension in the aftermath of the 1958 Notting Hill Riots in an accessible way that is particularly useful for discussing racism and prejudice with young students.

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Playing Away

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration97 mins

Playing Away(1987)

Gentle comedy revolving around the culture-clash which occurs when an English village cricket team invites a black Brixton team to a charity match.

Departing from a focus on city life, this comedy of manners is set in an idyllic Suffolk village and explores the tension that arise when a black and white team meet, and when urban and rural cultures collide. Through a cricket game the film takes apart the topic of stereotypes while also engaging with discussions of class.

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Britain on Film: Black Britain

Cert12A

Age group11+

Duration91 mins

Britain on Film: Black Britain(2017)

Programme of archive film spanning 1901 to 1985 exploring the history of black Britain throughout the 20th century.

Spanning 1901 to 1985, this programme of archive footage from different regions in the UK offers insight and depictions of black-British life and culture. These rare clips range from one of the earliest representations of black people on screen showing Manchester miners ending their day’s work, and candid footage from the 1960s of former students discussing their futures.

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Big City Stories

CertUnclassified

Age group11+

Duration82 mins

Big City Stories(2011)

A fascinating compilation of over 100 years of black Londoners on film, including interviews, newsreels, and clips from TV shows and feature films.

A selection of archive footage that covers over 100 years of London life showcases the diversity of the black British experience. From silent film, newsreels and television footage, the film depicts changing attitudes as well as ongoing issues of racism in addition to a focus on the contribution of black Londoners to British culture.

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Burning An Illusion

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration101 mins

Burning An Illusion(1981)

A young British-born black woman begins to question her attitude to love, life and desire for middle-class respectability.

Directed by Menelik Shabazz, a filmmaker often referred to as ‘the Godfather of black British Film, this London-based drama is one of the first British films with a black woman as the leading character. It was deemed a refreshing tale of a woman’s search for autonomy, that does not define its lead character by her race but as a working woman navigating a new relationship.

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Belle

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration99 mins

Belle(2013)

Absorbing costume drama about the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy admiral in the 18th Century, blending period romance and politics.

Inspired by the first European painting to depict a black subject on an equal eyeline to a white subject, Amma Asante’s thoughtful period drama plays homage to the work of Jane Austen through a focus on the friendship between two women, and subtly explores Britain’s history of colonialism and slavery with the story of a black mixed-raced woman living in an aristocratic home.

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A United Kingdom

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration111 mins

A United Kingdom(2016)

The true story of the controversial romance between a Botswanan king and a white British woman in the late 1940s.

Also directed by Amma Asante, an award-winning black-British director who is known for compelling period dramas that re-evaluate history and its connection to race, this true story deals with the topic of South African Apartheid and the complicity of the British Empire through the lens of a of mixed-race relationship.

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Half of a Yellow Sun

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration106 mins

Half of a Yellow Sun(2013)

Adaptation of a best selling novel following the lives of two sisters and their families during the Nigerian civil war.

Also directed by Amma Asante, an award-winning black-British director who is known for compelling period dramas that re-evaluate history and its connection to race, this true story deals with the topic of South African Apartheid and the complicity of the British Empire through the lens of a of mixed-race relationship.

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Gone Too Far!

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration88 mins

Gone Too Far!(2013)

London set comedy about estranged teenage brothers - one from London, the other Nigeria. A funny reminder of the importance of heritage and identity.

Directed by Destiny Ekaragha, this hilarious tale of culture clashes follows London teenager Yemi as he welcomes his Nigerian big brother to the UK. The film uses comedy to discuss identity and foregrounds the experiences of black-British young people, while addressing the topic of prejudice within migrant communities.

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A Moving Image

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration74 mins

A Moving Image(2016)

Unique, low-budget British docu-drama exploring the gentrification of Brixton, an area of south London.

When an artist returns home to the UK she is confronted with how much London has changed. Choosing to make art to respond to the gentrification of Brixton, her exploration leads her to discuss how her and her friends may be complicit in this cultural change. Bringing together fiction and documentary, the film is an honest investigation of this current debate.

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