‘As the first Black face on the scene, I had to push the doors open’– Horace Ové and Pressure (1975)
in British art cinema
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Pressure (1975) was the first British feature film to be written and directed by a Black film-maker, Horace Ové. Made during a particularly turbulent period in British race relations, Pressure tackled thorny issues such as racism in the workplace, Black homelessness and police brutality head-on. However, Pressure has much to say about intergenerational conflict within ‘immigrant’ families, a subject seldom touched on in film before. Moreover, Pressure is formally innovative. Drawing on the author’s own interviews with Horace Ové, archival material, and close textual analysis, this chapter will explore the making and exhibition of Pressure. It will suggest that the film’s metaphorical and topographical embeddedness in the Ladbroke Grove community (described in the 1970s as ‘the black political heart of London’), Ové’s use of a mixture of experienced actors and non-professional actors from London-based radical Black theatre groups, and the strongly autobiographical aspects of the film, meant that Pressure paved the way for other films such as Babylon (Rosso, 1980) and Burning an Illusion (Shabazz, 1981). Pressure’s meditation on colonialism and its melding of personal and political histories introduced a new ‘Black narrative’ to the screen.

British art cinema

Creativity, experimentation and innovation

Editors: Paul Newland and Brain Hoyle

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