Horace Ové

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Horace Ové
Born 1939 (age 74–75)
Belmont, Trinidad
Occupation director, producer

Horace Ové, CBE (born 1939), is a British filmmaker, photographer, painter and writer, one of the leading black independent 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] and Skateboard Kings (1978) have also become models for emerging filmmakers.

The actress Indra Ové is his daughter.

Life and work[edit]

Born in Belmont, Trinidad, in 1939, Horace Ové came to Britain in 1960 to study painting, photography and interior design. His entry into film was working as a film extra on the set of the 1963 Joseph L. Mankiewicz epic Cleopatra after its production moved to Rome.

On returning to London, Ové went to study at the London School of Film Technique, and in 1966 he 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.[4]

His next film, shot at a concert in Wembley Arena in 1970, was a documentary called Reggae,[5][6] 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 A Hole in Babylon, 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 of The Professionals ("A Man Called Quinn", 1981) and The Equalizer (shown on 8 January 1996 in the BBC series Hidden Empire),[7] about the 1919 Amritsar Massacre, which won two Indian Academy Awards in 1996.

His film Playing Away (1987), starring Norman Beaton, 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".[8]

In terms of style, Ové admits to being heavily influenced by neo-realism, having studied European filmmakers such as De Sica, Antonioni, Bunuel and Fellini during his time living in Rome.[9][10] He acknowledges influences from African-American political leaders of the 1960s and 1970s such as Malcolm X and Stokeley Carmichael but is 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.”[9]

His 2003 film Dream to Change the World 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.

Awards, honours and recognition[edit]

In 2006 he was one of five winners of the £30,000 Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Visual Arts.[11]

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.[12]

At the 2012 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, Ové was honoured as a "T&T Film Pioneer".[13][14]

Select filmography[edit]

  • 1966 – The Art of the Needle (documentary)
  • 1968 – Baldwin's Nigger (documentary)
  • 1971 – Reggae (documentary; BBC)
  • 1972 – The Black Safari (comedy)
  • 1973 – King Carnival (documentary; BBC)
  • 1975 – Pressure (feature film)
  • 1978 – Skateboard Kings (documentary; BBC)
  • 1979 – Empire Road (TV series)
  • 1979 – A Hole in Babylon (BBC, Play for Today)
  • 1981 – The Garland (BBC, Play for Today)
  • 1984 – Street Art (documentary; Channel 4)
  • 1985 – Music Fusion (documentary, Channel 4)
  • 1987 – Playing Away (feature film; Channel 4)
  • 1991 – The Orchid House (TV series, adapted from the 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


Further reading[edit]

  • Givanni, June, "Horace Ové – Reflection on a Thirty-Year Experience", Black Film Bulletin, Summer 1996, pp. 16–21.

External links[edit]