If you haven’t seen the film Pressure (1976) directed by Horace Ové who has just died, aged 84, then you have missed out on a crucial piece of the very slim documentation of the ‘first generation’ of Black people born in the UK from largely West Indian parents, AKA ’the Windrush Generation'. Watching it for the first time in a rare screening in a cinema in London in the 1980s, it felt like a lost document. In the pre-internet era moments like these were precious and helped make sense of the world.
The film follows a sort of coming of age of a Black schoolboy in West London in the mid-70s, a time when the racism was raw and unmitigated and London looked like The Sweeney. Apart from the odd appearance in TV dramas the UK Black population was strangely missing for the most part during the 1970s/80s. An attempt was made to redress that situation with the BBC’s short lived soap Empire Road, set in Birmingham, at the end of the 1970s of which Ové directed several episodes.
Along with Pressure, Ové also made Reggae (1971) a must-see feature-length documentary about the music, catching a time when it was establishing itself amongst British youth to the immense puzzlement of the older generation. Scenes of white skinheads and suedeheads dancing to reggae and rocksteady are set against images of a west African ritual dance as BBC Radio 1 DJ Mike Raven, an early adopter, gives a brief reggae history lesson in classic BBC-ese.
It’s worth remembering just how hard it was to get a feature-length film made before digital filming made it available to anyone with a smartphone. Add to that the seemingly ingrained racism of the time and it’s clear Ové was a true pioneer.
Main image - screengrab from Pressure