Tag Archives: Sidney Poitier

Thinking Aloud About Film: Pressure (Horace Ové, 1976)

In last week’s discussion of Med Hondo’s SOLEIL Ô (1970), we asked what was being done in Britain in this period? The answer is Horace Ové’s PRESSURE (1976), the first British feature film made by a black filmmaker. It’s a more inward looking film then Hondo’s  or ALI IN WONDERLAND (Djouhra Abouda, Alain Bonnamy, France/Algeria, 1975) or MANDABI (Ousmane Sembène, 1968), in that it focuses on racism and familial, social, and inter-generational relations in Ladbroke Grove, rather than making explicit links to colonial regimes or international revolutionary movements. It’s also less formally experimental than the other films and, perhaps because of that, more accessible. We discuss this film in relation to the above and also Sidney Poitier’s work in the US (BUCK AND THE PREACHER, 1972) plus trace links through this work to the Sankofa film collective, the films of Isaac Julian and those of Steve McQueen, particularly the latter’s SMALL AXE (2020), which seems to be having an ongoing cultural conversation with PRESSURE, our favourite of this grouping of films. It can be seen on BFI Player and is also available on DVD. The podcast may be listened to below:

 

 

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

 

Click on the hyperlink  to the Barbican interview between Ové and John Akomfrah, and the source of the Barry Norman quote Richard refers to in the podcast.

Richard also adds the following:

‘ this is a connection few people will have made . I was digging around for information on his children’s series “The Latchkey Children” – this is the most detail I can find although its mainly about the original novel rather than the TV series http://markwestwriter.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-latchkey-children-by-eric-allen.html “The group later expands to five with the arrival of Duke Ellington Binns, who helps Froggy escape from bullies and slowly becomes his friend – Binns likes England well enough but misses – and talks often of – his hometown Port Of Spain, in Trinidad. ” And like Pressure it’s also about learning the power of protest … “The Latchkey Children of the title are a gang of kids (who are around 11 years old or so), most of whom live on the St Justins Estate on the Thames Embankment and meet in the park after school. Their focal point is an old tree so when the council decides to get rid of it – and replace it with a concrete railway engine (“but that’s for kids!”) – the children decide to mount a protest. The story follows them on this protest – and in various adventures along the way.”

Also – Duke in the TV show is played by Ian Roberts in his first acting role, he later changed his name to Kwame Kwei-Armah, and he’s apparently said that the money from doing this show funded his – I guess otherwise he would have perhaps left school at 16 and so wouldn’t now be running the Young Vic…

José Arroyo and Richard Layne

 

Fences

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Fences is stagey and heavy-haded: Denzel is not much of a director. But he’s a great actor and this is a great role in one of *the* great American plays of the second half of the twentieth century. He and Viola Davis are something to see, together and individually and they overcome every other fault. Watching it reminded me of seeing Sidney Poitier as a child or reading James Baldwin as a teenager: it’s beautiful, so charming as to diffuse but not hide the underlying anger, and with a dash of low-down sexyness, here all the more praiseworthy given the protagonists’ ages. One feels elevated by the experience. I didn’t care that it’s not ‘cinematic’. What it does offer is great.

 

José Arroyo