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‘Pressure’ – British black ‘history’ that everyone should watch… entertaining, powerful, funny…(review)…

‘Pressure’  – British black ‘history’ that everyone should watch… entertaining, powerful, funny…(review)…

Now restored in 4K from its original 1975 print, this film is available on BFI i-player and screened both at London Film Festival and continues as part of director Sir Horace Ové’s Power to the People season of his films at the BFI during October and November …(see listings below..)

STILL relevant today, ‘Pressure’ deserves to be widely seen and is a powerful reminder that much of the world of film and TV in Britain, in 1975, was not open to diverse talent or strong voices such as Sir Horace Ové’s – the BFI, which funded it to the tune of £15,000 (hardly much even then for a film of its scale), hid it away, then botched its distribution and hoped it would all go away – it was simply too hot a political potato, but Ové was simply telling it like is and adding a little bit of Bunel and surrealism in for good measure…

Tony (Herbert Norville) is a bright kid, has O Levels, but still living at home, he decides to enter the world of work rather than study further, as a 16/17 year old. His age is not strictly specified. Nearly everywhere he goes, he is met with indifference and both casual and overt racism. One job interview, as a sort of trainee bookkeeper/accountant to which he seems ably suited falls through, because the employer is prejudiced and distracted (he has a pornagraphic magazine under his account books) and can’t see a (young) black man as an accountant. Even at a local garage, the owner says they already have “one” and there are no vacancies.

Tony has an older brother – Colin (Oscar James) who has moved out, is an activist and is making money raising consciousness and hosting socials, by the looks of things. He has already committed himself to the casue of Black Liberation.

He has a glamourous friend in Sister Louise (Sheila Scott-Wilkinson). Through him, Tony is introduced to a different world and another family. This one has, more or less, given up, on the British dream – are eking out a living on the edges and resort to opportunistic shoplifting. They are friendly, caring and not bad people. Tony is innocent and naïve and gets caught by racist coppers and you can see where his life is headed without some form of positive intervention.

When the racist police launch a raid on Tony’s parental home for cooked up reasons, it is both sad, tragic and predictable; and his mother’s hysterical reaction is both hilarious and telling.

Ové’s talent is clear – he weaves together a very believable story, gets great performances from all and the touch of surrealism, shows he was a thinker and intellectual, comfortable with ideas of art and practice.

Co-written by novelist and fellow Trinidadian Samuel Selvon (‘The Lonely Londoners’) and Ové, this film stands the test of time all too depressingly… (Sailesh Ram)
Acv rating: **** (out of five)

Picture: Tony (Herbert Norville)

Pressure’ continues to show at the BFI Southbank until November 16 as part of the BFI season.
Check listings:

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture