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Restoration premiere and release of PRESSURE and Horace Ove BFI Southbank season

Restoration premiere and release of PRESSURE and Horace Ove BFI Southbank season


  • BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation’s 4K restoration of Horace Ové’s feature debut PRESSURE has joint World Premiere at the 67th BFI London Film Festival and 61st New York Film Festival on 11 October
  • BFI re-release of PRESSURE in cinemas UK-wide and on BFI Player on 3 November
  • BFI Southbank season POWER TO THE PEOPLE: HORACE OVÉ’S RADICAL VISION, 23 October – 30 November, features a selection of his acclaimed film and television work, including introductions and panel discussion with guest speakers

“I’m interested in people that are trapped, Black, white, whatever race: that is what attracts me, the trap that we are all in and how we try to get out of it, how we survive and the effects of that trap”. Horace Ové

The BFI is delighted to announce that the work of Sir Horace Ové, the celebrated photographer, painter and writer, best-known as a pioneering filmmaker, is being honoured this autumn with a BFI Southbank retrospective season; Power to the People: Horace Ové’s Radical Vision and a UK-wide cinema release of his pioneering debut feature, PRESSURE (1975), in a 4K restoration.

Originally funded by the BFI Production Board and restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundationwith additional thanks to the BFI Philanthropy ‘Pioneers of Black British Filmmaking consortium’. PRESSURE was heralded as the first full-length Black British film and is as relevant now, almost 50 years on, as it ever was. Ové’s groundbreaking exploration of the anxieties of an emerging second-generation of West Indians in Britain, receives a joint restoration World Premiere at the 67th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express at BFI Southbank and as a Revivals selection at the 61st New York Film Festival on October 11, ahead of the film’s UK-wide cinema release by BFI Distribution and on BFI Player on 3 November.

Spanning four decades and described by writer Caryl Phillips as occupying a unique place in British cinema, Horace Ové’s filmography has encompassed cutting-edge drama and documentary, as well as programmes examining music (REGGAE), culture (KING CARNIVALSKATEBOARD KINGS) and the visual arts. This November BFI Southbank will host a retrospective season of Ové’s film and television work, Power to the People: Horace Ové’s Radical Vision. At a time when telling authentic Black stories on mainstream broadcast media was incredibly limited, Ové broke through barriers, both at the BBC and Channel 4, to create films that truly represented a multi-cultural Britain, told with an integrity that reflected his own values and political convictions. Films such as A HOLE IN BABYLON (1979), THE GARLAND (1981) and PLAYING AWAY (1985) all hold up a mirror, fusing political activism and a neo-realist approach to cinema to create narratives that capture the essence of people and place a multi-cultural Britain.

Horace Ové’s enduring legacy has inspired a whole generation of diverse Black British filmmakers and artists including Menelik Shabazz, John Akomfrah, Isaac Julien, Julien Henriques, Ngozi Onwurah, Steve McQueen, Amma Asante, Raine Allen-Mille and Dionne Edwards, to name but a few. Sir Horace Ové was knighted in the 2022 New Year Honours for services to media.

Kaz Ové for the Ové family said: “The restoration of PRESSURE was a revelation when watching it on the big screen, beautiful and vivid once again, we were seeing images and moments with a clarity probably not seen since the first screenings in 1976. The BFI have done an incredible job, Horace would be extremely proud that the film, its themes, ideas and aesthetics can now be seen as they should be and for generations to come.”

On the restoration of PRESSURE Arike Oke, BFI Executive Director of Knowledge and Collections added: PRESSURE is one of master artist Ové’s most vital works; for the BFI National Archive teams, The Film Foundation and our partners at Silver Salt and Molinare  to bring this film back to audiences has been an honour for us. More than a key title in Black British cinema history, this film captures the spirit of its generation, of its community. We hope that our expert and keen-eyed restoration work, completed with the guidance from the Ové family, means that even more people can feel, hear and experience the power of PRESSURE now, and into the future.”


With a screenplay written by Ové and fellow Trinidadian author Sam Selvon (The Lonely Londoners), PRESSURE follows a Black family in west London; from the parents who came from Trinidad as part of the Windrush generation with their first son, now part of the Black Power Movement, to their younger British-born son Tony (Herbert Norville), who is trying to find his place between the two cultures. As he leaves school and encounters prejudice on individual and institutional levels, Tony struggles to find acceptance in the country he grew up in yet has no Caribbean home he can dream of returning to. Unemployed and caught between an aspirational mother and a radical older brother, he drifts away from school friends and towards Black Power politics.

Shot in a semi-documentary style, PRESSURE deftly portrays the challenges of preserving one’s heritage while trying to assimilate in a Britain wrestling with the idea of a multi-cultural society.  As film critic Derek Malcolm noted, “What PRESSURE says about racism and the struggle to find a place between two, often very different cultures, still largely applies…no-one has said it much better and with more precision and conviction.”

Restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, with additional thanks to the BFI Philanthropy ‘Pioneers of Black British Filmmaking consortium’. PRESSURE receives its restoration World Premiere at the 67th BFI London Film Festival and 61st New York Film Festival simultaneously on 11 October, before being released in UK-wide cinemas and on BFI Player on 3 November. The 4K restoration has been undertaken in collaboration with the Ové family and producer Robert Buckler, and is based on the original 16mm negative, a 16mm release print, and the magnetic final mix soundtrack.


Born in Trinidad in 1936, Horace Ové’s background brought together South Asian, African and European cultural influences. Ové arrived in London in 1960 to study interior design, before spending time in Rome where he worked as a film extra to supplement his income, including on Joseph Mankiewicz’s epic CLEOPATRA (1963), and amongst European luminaries such as Federico Fellini and Vittorio De Sica, who were to have an influence on his later work. On returning to Britain in 1965, Ové began to cover social and political events in the UK whilst studying at The London Film School. Alongside his film career Ové worked extensively as a photographer across the world, beginning in his native Trinidad. During the 1960s and 1970s he captured iconic images of the Black Power movement and counterculture in London, including portraits of Michael X, Stokely Carmichael, Darcus Howe, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and leading figures in the Caribbean Artists Movement, as well as chronicling the birth and growth of the Notting Hill Carnival.

Twelve of his portraits were purchased by the National Portrait Gallery for its collection following an exhibition of his work in 2005. Ové’s photography work has recently featured in How We Are: Photographing Britain, Tate Britain (2007), Get Up, Stand Up Now, Somerset House (2019) and Life Between Islands, Tate Britain (2021 – 2022).

This October and November BFI Southbank celebrates Ové’s pioneering film and television work with a retrospective season, Power to the People: Horace Ové’s Radical Vision, kicking off on 23 October with an illustrated talk to introduce the season and a special re-release preview of PRESSURE. The introductory talk, Horace Ové: Reflecting the People – A Career Retrospective, will take a closer look at Ové the man, his immense talent and versatility as an artist as well as his enduring legacy. Discussion panellists will include actor Lennie James (work permitting), producers Annabelle Alcazar, Peter Ansorge and award-winning current affairs producer and Head of External Consultancies for the Sir Lenny Henry Centre, Marcus Ryder MBE. Ahead of the UK-wide cinema release, a special preview of PRESSURE on 23 October will be followed by a discussion with producers Annabelle Alcazar and Robert Buckler, writer and academic Caryl Phillips and filmmaker Rhea Storr, hosted by academic Dr Clive Nwonka.

Ové’s first film came out of the radical politics and upheaval of the late 1960s. BALDWIN’S N***** (1969), is a unique record of a visit to the UK by the renowned US author and activist James Baldwin, demonstrating his extraordinary oratorical skill. It captures him addressing a group of young people at the West Indian Student’s Centre in London, accompanied by US comedian and fellow activist Dick Gregory. Baldwin opens with an exposition on his name, which gives the film its provocative title, before exploring the issue of race in the US and the UK. Following the screening on 4 November, author Colin Grant and a special panel of guests will discuss the significance of the film’s message today.

Ové’s 1970 documentary REGGAE was the first in-depth documentary on black music and reggae in the UK capturing the music of artists like Toots and the Maytals, Millie and Desmond Decker performing at the first major reggae concert held at Wembley Stadium. Ové’s film illustrated the social and political messages in the music which had a considerable impact on race, class and culture. REGGAE screens on 7 November alongside KING CARNIVAL (1973) (introduced by Michael La Rose from the George Padmore Institute), Ové’s definitive documentary about the origins and practice of Trinidadian Carnival. The film, originally screened on BBC2’s groundbreaking The World About Us factual series, showcases his characteristic audio-visual flare and rich historical insight.

See Also

Also made for The World About UsBLACK SAFARI (1972), directed by Colin Luke, was adapted from an idea by Horace Ové. This razor-sharp spoof documentary following a group of explorers, venturing into ‘darkest Lancashire’ is a hilarious parody of colonial attitudes and features Ové, Yemi Goodman Ajibade and Bloke Modisane. Director Colin Luke will introduce the screening of BLACK SAFARI on 28 October in a double bill with SKATEBOARD KINGS (1978), Ové’s second documentary for The World About Us. Made years before skateboarding reached the UK, the film is a thrilling portrait of the youth culture that exploded onto the streets of Arizona and California, featuring a young Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and the Dogtown Crew, years before Stacy Peralta’s own 2001 film, DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS. 

Ové’s television work includes two significant single dramas made for the acclaimed BBC anthology series Play for TodayA HOLE IN BABYLON (1979) and THE GARLAND (1981). An important vehicle of its time, Play for Today demonstrated the single drama’s potential to engage mass audiences with social comment and artistic experimentation. As a format it was unafraid of tackling the often thorny issues and headlines of the day. Essential and at times provocative viewing, Play for Today reflected British society back to itself through fascinating explorations of class, social cohesion, political upheaval as well as race.

Made shortly after the release of PRESSURE, Ové’s A HOLE IN BABYLON (1979) was a true rarity in 1970s television, an authentic and timely Black British narrative helmed by a Black writer-director. Starring T-Bone Wilson and Carmen Munroe, Ové and co-writer Jim Hawkins’s play was based on the Spaghetti House Siege of 1975, intercutting archive footage with dramatic reconstruction. Hugely controversial at the time, it weaved together a complex tapestry of flashbacks to give those at the centre of the siege hope, dignity and motives that resonated far wider than the events that took place.  

A HOLE IN BABYLON screens on 12 November with THE GARLAND (1981), Ové’s exploration of South Asian Communities living in Birmingham. Co-written with H.O. Nazareth, the story is told from the viewpoint of two Asian couples, one a mixed marriage; a middle-class Asian man with a white wife and their teenage son struggling with his own cultural identity, and the other couple, their local Muslim butcher and his newly arrived wife. Both of whom are forced to confront the racial and class prejudices of their community and neighbours surrounding their marriages while one fights the immigration authorities to keep his recently arrived bride in the UK.

Ové made two documentaries back-to-back in India for Channel 4. Screening as a double bill on 23 NovemberDABBAWALLAHS (1985), filmed in Mumbai, is an extraordinary portrait of the men and women who convey lunches to the office workers in a frenetic race against time. WHO SHALL WE TELL? (1985) is Ové’s Grierson Award-nominated documentary about the aftermath of the Bhopal gas disaster in December 1984, a first person portrait told by the people of Bhopal themselves, describing their lives before and after the lethal gas-leak.

Ové’s lightness of touch, combined with Caryl Phillips’ witty and nuanced screenplay and a terrific ensemble cast featuring Norman Beaton, Nicholas Farrell, Joe Macelle, Robert Uhrquart, Neil Morrisey and Ross Kemp, all made PLAYING AWAY (1985) a winner. Introduced by Caryl Phillips on 24 October, the stroke of genius in Ové’s feature was to use the quintessential English village cricket match to provide the perfect setting for a clash of cultures between the middle-class villagers, their rural working-class members and the invited all Black ‘Conquistadors’ team from Brixton. No sooner do the Conquistadors arrive than village life is destabilised, but perhaps both sides learn something from each other and are the richer for it.    

Also screening as part of the BFI Southbank season are three films that influenced Horace Ové’s own cinematic aesthetic, LA DOLCE VITA (Federico Fellini, 1960) on 23 October, BICYCLE THIEVES (Vittorio De Sica, 1948) on 19 and 24 October and PATHER PANCHALI (Satyajit Ray, 1955) on 18 and 30 November.

BFI Southbank ‘Power to the People: Horace Ové’s Radical Vision’ season tickets on sale: BFI members 19 September, general sale 21 September  

BFI London Film Festival tickets on sale: BFI Members 6 September and general sale 12 September