Friday, 22 May 2015


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 Horace Ové

Horace Ové
Born1939 (age 75–76)
Occupationdirector, producer
Horace OvéCBE (born 1939), is a British filmmaker, photographer, painter and writer, one of the leading blackindependent film-makers to emerge in Britain since the post-war period. Ové holds the Guinness World Record for being the first Black British film-maker to direct a feature-length film, Pressure (1975).[1][2] In its retrospective history, 100 Years of Cinema, the British Film Institute (BFI) declared: "Horace Ové is undoubtedly a pioneer in Black British history and his work provides a perspective on the Black experience in Britain."
Ové has built a prolific and sometimes controversial career as a filmmaker, documenting racism and the Black Power movement in Britain over many decades through photography and in films such as Baldwin's Nigger (1968), Pressure and Dream to Change the World (2003). His documentaries such as Reggae (1971)[3] andSkateboard Kings (1978) have also become models for emerging filmmakers.
The actress Indra Ové is his daughter.

Early years

Born in 1939 in BelmontTrinidad, where he grew up, Horace Ové came to Britain in 1960 to study painting, photography and interior design. His entry into the film world was working as a film extra on the set of the 1963 Joseph L. Mankiewicz epic Cleopatra after its production moved to Rome.[4]
On returning to London, Ové went to study at the London School of Film Technique.

As film director

In 1966 Ové directed The Art of the Needle, a short film for the Acupuncture Association. In 1969 he made another short film, Baldwin's Nigger, in which African-American novelist James Baldwin discusses Black experience and identity in Britain and America.[5]
His next film, shot at a concert in Wembley Arena in 1970, was a documentary called Reggae,[6][7] which was successful in cinemas and was shown on BBC television. Ové subsequently did other documentaries for the BBC, including King Carnival (1973) in The World About Us series. Then in 1975 he directed the film for which he is best known, Pressure – the first full-length drama feature film by a Black director in Britain. Telling the story of a London teenager who joins the Black Power movement in the 1970s, Pressure featured scenes of police brutality that ostensibly led to its banning for two years by its own backers, the British Film Institute, before it was eventually released to wide acclaim.
Ové's other television work has included directing A Hole in Babylon (co-written with Jim Hawkins, featuring a cast including T-Bone Wilson, Trevor Thomas and Archie Pool), made for the BBC's Play for Today series, and transmitted on 29 November 1979; four episodes of the pioneering series Empire Road in 1979, an episode ofThe Professionals ("A Man Called Quinn", 1981) and The Equalizer (shown on 8 January 1996 in the BBC series Hidden Empire),[8] about the 1919 Amritsar Massacre, which won two Indian Academy Awards in 1996.
His film Playing Away (1987, with a screenplay by Caryl Phillips),[9] starring Norman Beaton and other notable actors such as Joseph MarcellRam John HolderBrian Bovell, and Stefan Kalipha (incidentally, Ové's cousin),[1] centres on the residents of the fictional British village of Sneddington, who invite the "Caribbean Brixton Conquistadors" (from South London) for a cricket match to commemorate "African Famine Week".[10]
His 2003 film Dream to Change the World[11] was a documentary about the life and work of the late John La Rose, the Trinidad-born activist, publisher and writer and founder of New Beacon Books in London.

As photographer

In parallel to his career in films is Ové's photography, which has been variously exhibited internationally over the decades, including at UCLA, the British Film Institute and the University of TuebingenGermany.[12] In 1984 he had the first solo exhibition by a black photographer at The Photographers' Gallery, entitled "Breaking Loose: Horace Ove",[13] followed up by another exhibition focusing on his images of Trinidad Carnival, "Farewell to the Flesh", at Cornerhouse in Manchester,[12] from 28 February to 5 April 1987.[14]
In 2001 he was invited to exhibit his works in "Recontres de la Photographie" in Bamako, Mali.[12]
In 2004, "Horace Ove 'Pressure'", described as "the first in-depth look at his photographic back catalogue", curated by Jim Waters and David A. Bailey, in association with Autograph ABP,[15] toured Britain, starting at Nottingham Castle museum, moving to the University of Brighton Gallery, the Norwich GalleryAberystwyth Arts Centre in Wales and the Arts Depot in London.[12] According to a description of that exhibition:
"1960's Britain was a hotbed of political and creative activity, writers and thinkers came from around the world to discuss civil rights issues and form new movements. Horace Ové was at many of the meetings and captured the events as they unfolded, including the first Black Power meeting with Stokely CarmichaelAllen Ginsberg and Michael X, founder of the black power movement in the UK with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He also photographed figures of the period including C L R JamesJames Baldwin and Darcus Howe as well as Sam SelvonAndrew Salkey and John La Rose the founding members of the Caribbean Artists' Movement. Ové also recorded the birth of the Notting Hill Carnival and charted its growth through the 1970's and 1980's from the early beginnings with the first Windrush generation to the pumping sound systems, fashions and street dancing of the younger generation. He has also recently brought his work up to date with new portraits of people like Sir Trevor MacDonald and Professor Stuart Hall."[15]
Ové had an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 2005, as well as work exhibited at London's Victoria and Albert MuseumTate Liverpool, theWhitechapel Gallery and a retrospective of his film and photographic work at the Barbican.[16][17] His work also featured in the Tate Britain exhibition "How We Are: Photographing Britain".[18]
Interviewed in 2010 by The Guardian about his iconic 1967 photograph of Michael X with bodyguards at Paddington Station, Ové said: "I'm a film-maker as well as a photographer, and I live in a visual world. I've always been an active photographer – if there's anything going on socially or politically, I want to know about it. So the late 1960s and early 70s were a very busy time for me."[19]

As theatre director

During the course of his career Ové has also directed stage plays, including in 1973 Blackblast written by Lindsay Barrett, the first black play to be shown at London'sInstitute of Contemporary ArtsThe Swamp Dwellers by Wole Soyinka, and in 1993 The Lion by Michael Abbensetts, for Talawa Theatre Company at the Cochrane Theatre[20] (also on British Council tour to Jamaica, performed at the Ward Theatre, Kingston, 30 September–23 October, 3 November–13 November),[21][22][23] starringMadge Sinclair, Stefan Kalipha and Danny Sapani.[12]

Directing style

In terms of style as a director, Ové admits to being heavily influenced by neo-realism, having studied European filmmakers such as De SicaAntonioniBuñuel andFellini during his time living in Rome.[24][25] He acknowledges influences from African-American political leaders of the 1960s and 1970s such as Malcolm X and Stokeley Carmichael but has been somewhat disparaging of contemporary black politics in Britain: "In black British politics there are still lot of things that are missing, that are not said."[24]

Awards, honours and recognition

Ové has been the recipient of the Scarlet Ibis medal from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in recognition of his international achievements in television and film, and in 1986 was named Best Director for Independent Film and Television by the British Film Institute,[12] awarded for his "contribution to British culture".[26]
In 2006 he was one of five winners of the £30,000 Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Visual Arts.[27]
In the 2007 Queen's Birthday Honours List he was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his contributions to the film industry in the UK.
In November 2011, three young filmmakers competing on Dragons' Den as part of the 55th BFI London Film Festival Education Events, First Light, won £2000 funding and professional mentoring having successfully pitched their idea to make a short documentary about Horace Ové.[28]
At the 2012 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, Ové was honoured as a "T&T Film Pioneer".[29][30]
A "Tribute to Horace Ové" was presented by Birkbeck Institute for Social Research in collaboration with Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image on 23 and 24 January 2015.[31]

Selected filmography

  • 1966 – The Art of the Needle (documentary)
  • 1968 – Baldwin's Nigger (documentary)
  • 1971 – Reggae (documentary; BBC)
  • 1972 – Coleherne Jazz and Keskidee Blues (documentary; BBC)[32]
  • 1972 – The Black Safari (documentary; BBC, The World Around Us)[33]
  • 1973 – King Carnival (documentary; BBC)
  • 1973 – The Mangrove Nine (producer; directed by Franco Rosso, scripted by John La Rose)[34]
  • 1975 – Pressure (feature film)
  • 1978 – Skateboard Kings (documentary; BBC)
  • 1979 – Empire Road (TV series; episodes 5, 6 and 10)
  • 1979 – A Hole in Babylon (BBC, Play for Today)
  • 1980 – Stretch Hunter
  • 1980 – The Latchkey Children (serial, ITV, 6 episodes)
  • 1981 – The Garland (BBC, Play for Today; co-written with H. O. Nazareth; starring Paul Anil, Adrian Bracken, Ishaq Bux)[35]
  • 1984 – Street Art (documentary; Channel 4)
  • 1985 – Music Fusion (documentary, Channel 4)
  • 1985 – Dabbawallahs
  • 1987 – Playing Away (feature film; Channel 4)
  • 1991 – The Orchid House (TV series, adapted from the 1953 novel of the same name by Phyllis Shand Allfrey)
  • 2003 – Dream To Change the World (a tribute to John La Rose)
  • 2007 – The Ghost of Hing King Estate


  • Jim Waters and David Bailey (eds), Pressure: Photographs by Horace Ove, Nottingham City Museums & Galleries, 2004. ISBN 978-0905634678