Babylon (UK-Italy, 1980)

White on black

White on black

The first black British feature Pressure preceded this by five years and there aren’t, nearly 30 years later, many other black British films (I can think of Babymother, 1998); Babylon is, institutionally, a white film but deals brilliantly (I guess) with the young black experience of the 1970s. The ’70s was not a good decade and the endemic racism is presented vividly; it probably seems another, bigoted and ignorant, world now but we must not be complacent: the Met, for example, seems to have learned little after Stephen Lawrence.

Focusing on Brynsley Forde’s character (he was the lead singer of Aswad), a young man trying to find his way in a hostile world, the grim South London streets form the backdrop to a tragic ‘coming of age’ narrative. The music’s great as is Chris Menges’ cinematography that looks superb in the DVD transfer.

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