Black Lives

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

Black communities, like many minority groups, have long been ill-served by a mainstream British media accustomed to reflecting predominantly white, middle-class lives - a problem entrenched in the second half of the 20th century with the rise of television. Yet a rich tapestry of work from across the boundaries of fiction and non-fiction, film and TV, made for (though not always by) black people, does exist. This selection contains many surprises – some joyous, some sobering, some heartbreaking – and highlights the often painfully slow progress in addressing negative representations and stereotypes on screen. Impassioned and sometimes violent dispatches from the front line in the fight for racial equality can be found here, but so too can records of progress: in the pioneers breaking new ground in culture, politics and sport, and in the more mundane glimpses of everyday life. And this story is not just London’s story: the selection takes a journey around Britain, to a Nigerian wedding in 1960s Cornwall, an ‘African village’ in Essex and a Caribbean restaurant opening in West Bromwich; Newcastle, meanwhile, plays host to not one but two black luminaries, Martin Luther King and Muhammed Ali.

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Born in-a BabylonBorn in-a Babylon

Documentary200035 minsDirector: Nicolas Chaudeurge

A portrait of Rastafarians living in Tottenham at the start of the new millennium.

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Documentary196525 minsDirector: Peter Davis

A fascinating, unsettling study of immigration in 1960s English cities.

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Negro next DoorNegro next Door

Current affairs196527 minsDirector: Peter Robinson

The white residents of a Leeds suburb express their troubling thoughts on their new black neighbours.

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Mixed MarriagesMixed Marriages

195814 minsDirector: Rollo Gamble

Broadcaster Daniel Farson explores different points of view about interracial marriages from 'ordinary' people.

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Sid's FamilySid's Family

Documentary197249 minsDirector: Nick Gifford

You know Seven Up, but have you heard of Sid's Trilogy? See life through Jamaican-born father Sid's eyes in this 70s doc

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Good FatherGood Father

Documentary198059 minsDirector: Nick Gifford

You'll be delighted to meet Sid Williams and his six children, from Montpelier in Bristol, in this engaging documentary

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Coloured Voting - Hidden IssueColoured Voting - Hidden Issue

Factual TV196414 minsDirector: James Butler

Current affairs programme from Birmingham investigating the possible impact that immigration and racial prejudice may have on the upcoming election.

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Black MuslimsBlack Muslims

Documentary196311 mins

Remarkable interview with Malcolm X, spokesman for the Nation of Islam, about police brutality against black Muslims in LA

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This Question of ColourThis Question of Colour

Documentary196529 minsDirector: William Brayne

Dcumentary about race relations in Britain from a US standpoint, including a report on the 1964 election in Smethwick.

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Coloured School LeaversColoured School Leavers

Current affairs196527 minsDirector: Peter Robinson

Black school leavers talk about their career aspirations and the discrimination they may face in the world of work.

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Blood Ah Go RunBlood Ah Go Run

Documentary198213 minsDirector: Menelik Shabazz

This documentary by Menelik Shabazz (Burning an Illusion) about the response to the New Cross Fire in 1981 prefigures the widespread social unrest later that year.

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Animation & Artists Moving Image19974 minsDirector: Victor Olusola Opeyokun

Animated awakening: a young black man in an oppressive urban environment finds a new outlook by embracing his African roots

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Blacks BritannicaBlacks Britannica

Campaigning film197857 minsDirector: David Koff

British racism is discussed in the context of the class struggle in this powerful American documentary.

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The Sailor's ReturnThe Sailor's Return

Period drama1978104 minsSilentDirector: Jack Gold

Fascinating tale, set in 19th century Dorset, of an African woman who faces prejudice when she falls in love with an Englishman.

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Hot Summer NightHot Summer Night

Drama195982 minsDirector: Ted Kotcheff

A progressive union boss is confronted with his family's prejudices when his daughter brings home her black boyfriend.

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Dread Beat and BloodDread Beat and Blood

Biopic197944 minsDirector: Franco Rosso

Vibrant documentary portrait of dub poet and activist Linton Kwesi Johnson, fighting racism with the spoken word on the streets of 1970s Brixton.

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Omega RisingOmega Rising

198850 minsDirector: D. Elmina Davis

The women of Rastafari talk about their relationship to the movement’s development.

More Black Lives films from our Free collection.