Blacks Britannica (1978) | Controversial Documentary on Racism in the UK
Racism in Great Britain is explored in this documentary. The argument is made that economics is the basis of discrimination in England, which is exascerbated by opportunism throughout the political system. A cross-section of black citizens are interviewed, and footage of street life and violence are used to illustrate how the class system keeps them at the bottom of England's society. - tcm.com
"BLACKS BRITANNICA is a relentless and engrossing indictment of racism toward black immigrants to England, told from an obvious Marxist perspective. The film argues that discrimination in England is based on economics and fueled by opportunists across the entire spectrum of British politics. Told through the eyes and words of a cross-section of blacks, David Koff's film uses interviews, stock footage, and scenes of street life and violence to show how blacks in England are trapped at the bottom of an economic and political system which shows little compassion or concern about their fate. Rapid editing, overlapping dialogue and cinema verité all build to an emotional and violent climax, whose conclusion is underscored by a reggae band's call for revolution. As Koff puts it, the film "reflects the increasingly militant response within the black community to the continuing attacks upon it, both by the fascist elements on the street and by the state itself." An official of the British Information Service in Washington called the film "dangerous" and asked for equal time. New York Times critic John O'Connor said the film not only documents the growing militancy, "but, quite clearly, the structure and tone endorse it."
The program was originally scheduled to air on July 13, 1978, but the showing was postponed so that WORLD's executive producer David Fanning could make some changes. "I never had any dispute with the central premise of the film or with its contents," Fanning said at the time. He argued that the changes were intended to make it more understandable to the American public. But later, Fanning told Newsweek: "I was concerned with the film's endorsement of a Marxist viewpoint."
Koff insists that two separate films now exist: his version and Fanning's. Fanning rearranged some of the sequences in the original version and removed about three minutes of footage including a sequence where British cops used black figures in target practice. The Koff film opened with an interview with black sociologist Cohn Prescod that became the matrix of the documentary:
'If one weren't wary of talking about conspiracy, because in all parts of this country… it's clear that at top national level, and certainly at local level, the state has moved to manipulate blacks in any way it wanted to.' "
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