Without informing the filmmakers, WGBH aired a revised cut, on the grounds of “editorial integrity”, which excised disturbing scenes of police target practice, and material suggesting that British racism was conspiratorial and institutionalised. (1983). This treatment exposed a schism between the purportedly progressive liberalism of WGBH, and the radical left viewpoint of the filmmakers. By early 2003, even though litigation threats against the film had subsided, and it was being sold to international broadcasters, Channel 4 still refused to show it.
Hall’s letter provoked a further response, from Darcus Howe, who sided with the author: “[Rushdie] simply says that the attempt to shape a new language does not work, and I agree with him.” These spirited exchanges highlighted something remarkable: for the first time, experimental Black British film art was being debated by public intellectuals in a national newspaper.

An early pioneer was Horace Ové, who was born in Belmont, Trinidad and Tobago, in 1939, and came to Britain in 1960.

Ceddo’s Milton Bryan directed the group’s first film, The People’s Account (1985), a white-hot record of community anguish in response to the death of Cynthia Jarrett. Amponsah follows two of Duggan’s best friends, Kurtis and Marcus, in the years following his death. Ceddo - Duration: 5:07. This persuasive jeremiad cited the few unorthodox, politically challenging Black British films made in the decade, including Isaac Julien’s vibrant period piece Young Soul Rebels (1991), Black Audio Film Collective’s stark British Black Power docudrama Who Needs a Heart (1991), and Ngozi Onwurah’s furious dystopian thriller Welcome II The Terrordome (1995), but also lamented increasingly risk-averse commissioning, and the paucity of British films centring Black life in complex ways. Perhaps predictably Blacks Britannica endured a tortured route to the screen. Tony tentatively joins the Black Power cause, mostly because of his crush on the charismatic American activist Sister Louise (Sheila Scott-Wilkinson). The film won a prestigious BFI Grierson Award for best documentary, but wasn’t to everybody’s taste. It was yanked from the schedules, and, like Blacks Britannica before it, never shown on British TV. As reported by journalist Peter Biskind, the re-edit was aired nationwide on 10 August 1978, and the original version was shown a few days later in the Boston area only after a local coalition of activists put pressure on WGBH. Not only did the nine – who included Darcus Howe, a founder member of the British Black Panther Party – win their freedom, they forced the first ever judicial acknowledgement of racism in the police.
Alexander alludes to one of the frequent, flawed arguments of the era: that multiculturalism had triumphed, rendering the need to focus on specific minority groups less urgent. In January 1981, 13 young Black people were killed in a fire at No 439 New Cross Road, London, the home of Yvonne Ruddock, whose 16th birthday was being celebrated that night and who herself died in the fire – the Grenfell Tower blaze of its day. Founder members Imruh Bakari Caesar and Menelik Shabazz were also behind independent production company Kuumba, whose work included Black British youth culture documentary Step Forward Youth (1977, directed by Shabazz), and Blood Ah Go Run. In this climate, many public institutions apportioned funding to Black, Asian and other artists of colour in order to satisfy a growing demand among these underrepresented groups for, at the very least, some visibility in the media – although, in the sceptical words of historian Kobena Mercer, these concessions reflected “the need to be seen to be doing something”.


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