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BFI African Odysseys celebrate Darcus Howe BFI Southbank, 5 – 14 November 2021

BFI African Odysseys celebrate Darcus Howe BFI Southbank, 5 – 14 November 2021

The BFI announce full details of a new programme from BFI AFRICAN ODYSSEYS exploring the work of activist and broadcaster DARCUS HOWE through a series of talks and screenings at BFI Southbank from 5 – 14 November. Born in Trinidad during the dying days of British colonialism, Howe settled in the UK in the 1960s. As an activist, he was central to organising political campaigns, including the historic Mangrove Nine trial, which was depicted in Steve McQueen’s award-winning film MANGROVE, and The Black Peoples’ Day of Action, 1981. Howe also became a household name with a career in broadcasting that spanned three decades from the 1980s and created stimulating programming that stands as a landmark in enlightened broadcasting.

Photograph Darcus Howe, Anti-National Front demonstration, Lewisham, London, 1977; A black and white photograph entitled ‘Darcus Howe, Anti-National Front demonstration, Lewisham, London, 1977’ by Syd Shelton. Syd Shelton Lewisham 1977


November will explore Howe’s activist years and examine how they influenced his work in TV with an opening discussion between Tony Warner of Black History Walks, Leila Hassan Howe (Race Today Collective) and Farrukh Dhondy, writer (and former commissioning editor). The afternoon will continue with a focus on his broadcasting career and a look at the legendary programme, BANDUNG FILE; writer and Series Editor, Tariq Ali will introduce this session which will also feature a selection of extracts from the programme.

This will be followed by be a panel discussion, chaired by broadcaster, Dotun Adebayo about what BANDUNG FILE can teach us about current affairs programming today. The event also look at Howe’s love of the arts and feature ARENA’S CARIBBEAN NIGHTS (featuring CLR James, Linton Kwesi Johnson and poet Michael Smith). Selected highlights from his show, DEVIL’S ADVOCATE will round off the day and consider the programme for which Darcus Howe’s name became most renowned (earning him the nickname in his neighbourhood of Brixton, ‘the devil’). DEVIL’S ADVOCATE placed important often controversial figures in the hot seat to defend their particular political or artistic stance in front of a studio audience. This will include the notorious episode with publisher, XPRESS in which a gun was produced during the debate.

Prior to the main programme as listed above, on 5 November we will begin with CAUSE FORCONCERN: EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW, a free talk and screening presented by Black History Walks on 5 November. This little known documentary from 1969, broadcast by the BBC set out to detail the number of shocking cases of police brutality and corruption against members of the black community. Howe and other members of the public were invited to participate in a live panel conversation – his first brush with broadcast media. The talk will include a discussion with Tony Warner of Black History Walks, about the show that inadvertently began Howe’s engagement with TV.

See Also

Documentaries featuring Howe will also be screening during the programme, highlighting the continuing theme of identity in his work. In TRAVELS WITH MY CAMERA: IS THIS MY COUNTRY?(Channel 4 / Diverse, Paul Yule, 2007), Howe revisits his past growing up in Trinidad to ask who identifies as British, and why in this search for meaning in his own personal identity. Playing alongside the documentary on 9 November is WHITE TRIBE (Channel 4 / Diverse, Dir Paul Wilmshurst, 2000), in which Howe turned his brilliantly provocative gaze on the white English population to ask why the English feel their culture is so vulnerable and demonstrates his great skill as a filmmaker in encouraging us to see things from a different perspective.

Never one to shy away from those difficult questions to be asked about his own community, Howe returns to the Caribbean in TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Channel 4 / Diverse, Michael Waldman, 2000). During his search to learn what the colonies have achieved, he is shocked by Trinidad’s violence and racial prejudice, and he uncovers some unexpected attitudes to the legacy of colonialism. Playing alongside the documentary on 14 November is DARCUS HOWE: SON OF MINE (Channel 4 / Diverse, James Quinn, 2006), which follows Howe as he attempts to understand and become closer to his son Amiri, a representation of who he believes is a whole ‘lost generation’ of young black men.

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