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Black Britain on Film

Striking, illuminating and sometimes surprising images of black culture, community and characters, spanning over a century of British film and TV.

From some of the earliest appearances at the dawn of the 20th century to groundbreaking postwar documentaries and contemporary features, this collection charts changing attitudes and hidden histories. Here are the trailblazers, the icons, the stereotypes, the controversies. These richly varied films uncover sometimes surprising histories of black culture and community. They tackle troubling issues of race, representation and identity. And they highlight some of the best of black British filmmaking, from the work of pioneers Horace Ové and Menelik Shabazz to later innovators John Akomfrah and Ngozi Onwurah to contemporary successes Noel Clarke and Debbie Tucker Green. The collection also showcases many of the most distinctive and iconic black performers in British film and TV, including Norman Beaton, Earl Cameron, Idris Elba, Lenny Henry, Carmen Munroe, Sophie Okonedo, Paul Robeson, Rudolph Walker and Elisabeth Welch.

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Hull Fair (1902)
Hull Fair (1902)
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Hull Fair (1902)

Non-Fiction19024 minsSilent Location: Kingston upon Hull

The ornate pavilions of cinematographs, boxing booths and menageries at Hull Fair.

When Giants Fought
When Giants Fought
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When Giants Fought

Sport192631 minsSilent

A bruising fight in black and white sets the tone for conflicts to come.

Divide and Rule - Never!
Divide and Rule - Never!
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Divide and Rule - Never!

197841 mins

Young working class Londoners fight racism with the power of rock and reggae in this anarchic documentary.

Nigerian Wedding in Cornwall
Nigerian Wedding in Cornwall
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Nigerian Wedding in Cornwall

News19641 mins Location: Pool

Dressing to please as the happy couple switch wedding dress for national dress.

Jemima + Johnny
Jemima + Johnny
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Jemima + Johnny

196629 mins Location: Notting Hill

Touching short about the friendship between a white boy and a black girl in 1960s Notting Hill.

A World Is Turning
A World Is Turning
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A World Is Turning

Documentary194845 mins

A lost chapter in black British film: extraordinary rushes from a documentary showcasing talented members of the black community.

Kanga
Kanga
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Kanga

Drama-documentary199215 mins

Early 90s London gets a vibrant dose of African culture in this mini odyssey fusing dance, music and fashion.

Cedar Wood & Silk
Cedar Wood & Silk
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Cedar Wood & Silk

199514 mins

Insightful exploration of the relationship between a Jamaican mother and her British-born daughter.

Top Deck
Top Deck
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Top Deck

Drama196230 minsSilent

A woman bus conductor struggles to ignore her black American army officer lover.

Fay Craig - Mirage
Fay Craig - Mirage
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Fay Craig - Mirage

Music video19633 mins

You'd better believe it! Talented Jamaican-born dancer Fay Craig dances up a kitschy storm in this kooky 1960s dance film.

Black Special Constable
Black Special Constable
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Black Special Constable

Non-Fiction19642 mins Location: Gloucestershire

In Gloucester in January 1964, Astley Lloyd Blair makes history by becoming the first black special constable in Britain.

Contact
Contact
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Contact

Drama19655 mins

Tense, graphic experimental short film portraying police brutality inside a jail cell.

Fay Craig & the Boscoe Holder Dancers - Voodoo - Cinebox
Fay Craig & the Boscoe Holder Dancers - Voodoo - Cinebox
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Fay Craig & the Boscoe Holder Dancers - Voodoo - Cinebox

Music video19623 mins

Dancers Boscoe Holder and Fay Craig shake out some sultry shapes in this vibrant vintage slice of bongo-driven kitsch.

Fay Craig - Bongo Baby - Cinebox
Fay Craig - Bongo Baby - Cinebox
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Fay Craig - Bongo Baby - Cinebox

Music video19623 mins

Jamaican dancer Fay Craig gets down to a bongo rhythym in this kitsch 1960s dance film.

Rise and Fall of Nellie Brown
Rise and Fall of Nellie Brown
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Rise and Fall of Nellie Brown

Musical196470 mins Location: Liverpool

An incredibly joyous TV musical about a young woman's search for her long-lost cousin.

Steel 'n' Skin
Steel 'n' Skin
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Steel 'n' Skin

Performance197936 mins Location: Liverpool

Black music and culture in the community

Blues Is My Middle Name
Blues Is My Middle Name
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Blues Is My Middle Name

Drama199914 mins

Troubled relationship amidst a background of a Jazz Club scene.

Vox Pops on Black Police Officers
Vox Pops on Black Police Officers
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Vox Pops on Black Police Officers

Non-Fiction19663 mins

Black police officers? What a ridiculous idea! Attitudes from England's colonial past linger on in the Midlands of the 1960s.

Explore further

Before Windrush
Before Windrush
Free collection

Before Windrush

Precious glimpses and surprising rediscoveries: snapshots of black Britain in the decades before the great postwar migrations.

Black Lives
Black Lives
Free collection

Black Lives

Portraits of public and private lives against the shifting social climate of 20th century Britain.

Black British Filmmaking
Body Beautiful from Black British Filmmaking
Free collection

Black British Filmmaking

A selection of shorts and features by black writers and directors, from milestones of the 60s and 70s to contemporary hits.

Babymother from Black Britain on Film

More Black Britain films in our Rentals collection.