Saturday, October 17, 2020

LOVERS ROCK - BFI London Film Festival 2020 - Day 12

LOVERS ROCK is another of the five-part series of films that Steve McQueen (TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE) has made to be shown on the BBC as part of its Small Axe series of films exploring British Black history.  It couldn't be more different from the courtroom drama, MANGROVE, that opened the festival.  Rather, this is a celebration of a certain time and a certain style of home-made West Indian entertainment - the house party! As the movie opens in early 80s Notting Hill, some young boys are clearing out the furniture from a house, and some women are cooking up a storm while singing together.  Hours later young West Indian men and women don their finery and pay their fifty pence to come into an absolutely banging house party, with the most amazing music. The atmosphere is hot and sultry with dancing in the queue for the loo and people eating home-made food and making out in the back garden.  As with all parties, there are unwelcome attentions from men, but also more happy couplings, and evidently a copious amount of weed being smoked.  The best way to approach this film - with little plot or dialogue - is just to be carried along on the positive vibe. To become so absorbed, as the revellers do, that when the song Silly Games stops, you feel the music continue, with perhaps the most tuneful dancers of all time singing a cappella. The sun comes up and so does reality.  This safe and warm private space that celebrates West Indian culture is exposed for what it is.  An attempted sexual assault is thwarted.  And as a new couple leaves to make out in the workplace of the boy, his boss finds them and scolds them.  The black man puts on his cockney geezer accent that makes him less Other and threatening to the White man. The compromises of living as an ethnic minority begin again. 

LOVERS ROCK has a running time of 68 minutes. It is the second episode in Steve McQueen's Small Axe TV series.  It will air on UK TV on November 22nd and be released on the internet in the USA on November 27th. 

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