Horace Ové's best-known film follows Tony, a young black man, who discovers the realities of prejudice in 1970s Britain while confronting a generational divide within his own family. While Tony's parents, who immigrated from Trinidad, are content not to 'stir up trouble', his older brother itches for confrontation. Shot in a gritty realist style with a documentary-like feel, Pressure features stunning performances from a largely non-professional cast.
This month we are screening three films by Horace Ové:
PRESSURE - 7th April - 19:30
PLAYING AWAY - 14th April - 19:30
BALDWIN'S NIGGER - 21st April -19:30 plus further dates
Horace Ové, CBE was born in Belmont, Trinidad and Tobago, in 1939. He came to Britain in 1960 to study painting, photography and interior design. After working as a film extra in Rome, he returned to London to study at the London School of Film Technique. He began work onMan Out, a surreal film about a West Indian novelist who has a mental breakdown. The project was never completed, but in 1966 Ové directed The Art of the Needle, a short film for the Acupuncture Association. This was followed by another short, Baldwin's Nigger (1969), in which novelist James Baldwin discusses black experience and identity in Britain and America.
Ové's next film, Reggae (1970), was a documentary examining what was then an underground music genre. It was the first feature-length film financed by Black people in Britain (funded by Junior Lincoln, a record producer), and was successful in cinemas and was shown by the BBC.
Reggae's success helped open some hitherto closed doors for Ové. Playing Away (1986), a feature film made for Channel 4, told the fictional story of a West Indian cricket team from Brixton playing against a village team as part of the village's 'Third World Week' celebrations. The film demonstrates Ové's ability to balance comedy with more serious issues, skilfully bringing out the race and class tensions underlying the cricket match.
Ové has often looked to combine the form and style of documentary with more conventional drama. His most famous film, Pressure (1975) - the first feature-length fiction film by a Black director in Britain - explores the problems facing young people in the black British community, using the conventions of drama-documentary with gritty, naturalistic performances. Pressure was shelved for almost three years by its funders, the BFI, ostensibly because it contained scenes showing police brutality.
As Ové says, he wanted to show 'that black people were fighting for their rights under a very racist situation and... were finding ways and means of demonstrating their feeling'. His importance as a filmmaker lies not just in his being the first black director to break into the mainstream, but also in the committed political voice he retained once there.