The first British feature written and directed by a Black feature did not come, improbably and somehow, until 1976. This alone would make Horace Ove’s Pressure an object of some note; doubly so that it’s also the first to situate itself from the perspective of Black characters. Though largely unseen, the film is emerging into a new spotlight: its restoration will begin a rollout at BAM on Friday, May 10, courtesy Janus Films, ahead of which is an electrifying new trailer. (This engagement will be preceded by a series of films about Black Britain that begins on May 3.)

Here’s the synopsis: “Horace Ové’s fiction-film debut marks a watershed in the history of British cinema: the nation’s first feature to be written and directed by a Black filmmaker and the first to focus on the perspective of Black characters. Ové and novelist Sam Selvon’s gritty script centers on teenage Tony (Herbert Norville), caught between his Trinidadian parents’ (Lucita Lijertwood and Frank Singuineau) desire to attain middle-class respectability in London and his older brother Colin’s (Oscar James) urging to join the Black Power movement. After encountering racism while hanging out with a white girl and searching for employment, Tony finds comradeship with a group of aimless Caribbean boys, only to discover that their petty criminality is a dead end. Ové depicts Tony’s subsequent political awakening in captivating vérité style as he realizes that taking on the system will invite not only violent police oppression but also a thorough examination of his own values and beliefs. Suffused with the political outrage and explosive rebellion of 1970s London, Pressure is a marvel of lived-in independent filmmaking that captures Black working-class solidarity while refusing easy solutions to social problems––like income disparity, juvenile delinquency, racial profiling––that remain relevant today.”

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