Friday, July 01, 2005

Repertory Watch/Barbican

As London continues to celebrate African culture (see the review of Mooladé on previous posts list), filmmaker and photographer Horace Ové gets a look on as well. Born in Trinidad, Ové is internationally known as one of the leading black independent filmmakers to emerge in Britain since the post-war period. The programme includes the short The Equalizer (Saturday 2 July, 12:30) in a double bill with the feature The Garland. The Equalizer tells the story of Udham Singh, a water carrier at the Amritsar massacre, conducted by the British in 1919, who vows to avenge his people. Many years later in 1940, he shoots Sir Michael O'Dwyer in London, who was Governor of the Punjab at the time of the massacre during British rule. Udham Singh was subsequently tried and hanged. The Garland focuses on the story of two Asian couples in 1980s Britain. One is a mixed marriage between a middle class Asian man and his white wife, whose understanding of her husband's culture evolves when their son falls for a Muslim girl and struggles with his own identity. The other couple is the local Muslim butcher and his wife, who fall foul of English law when he divorces her and marries another woman within the Muslim faith, resulting in her deportation.


Playing Away

Still on Saturday, the Barbican will screen the feature A Hole on Babylon, at 2:45 . This film is Horace Ové’s dramatisation of the 1975 Spaghetti House siege, in which two West Indians and an African tried to finance an African studies programme for black British children, who they felt were deprived of historical and cultural education concerning Africa. Events culminated in a siege in an Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge when the police surrounded the area and the situation came to a head. That is followed by another feature at 4:05, Playing Away 15. This tale focuses on a black cricket team from Brixton who, never having left London, head off to play a match in a conservative white Suffolk village. The film deals with three differing layers of society, and focuses on racial and class tensions as highlighted through the cricket game.

On Sunday at 2pm there will be a screening of The Skateboard Kings, a documentary uncovering the then little-known Californian sport called 'skateboarding' (the film was made in 1978) followed by the featurette Reggae, deemed as the first independent documentary on Black Music in Britain. Shot during the first major reggae concert at Wembley Stadium in 1970, it illustrates the social and political messages behind the music.

Baldwin's Nigger is next at 4:15. Made in 1968, this feature shows a wild and witty debate between James Baldwin, the legendary African American author, and Dick Gregory, the American comedian who gave up his career to work with the Black Movement in the USA. They compare Black life in America and in Britain, during a meeting at the West Indian student centre in London. The programme closes with Dabbawallahs, which was made for Channel 4 in 1985. The film follows a group of unemployed farm workers, who have to leave their families behind to find work as lunch-box carriers (Dabbawallahs). The work is hard and complex and involves them delivering home-cooked dinners to individuals in the overcrowded bustling city of Bombay. The trays they carry on foot, bike and train weigh up to 200lbs, the documentary follows their daily life and dangers through the busy streets of the city. (See links for Barbican info)

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