Pressure (1976 film)

Pressure is a 1976 British drama film directed by Horace Ové and starring Herbert Norville, Oscar James and Frank Singuineau. It is hailed as the UK's first black feature film.[2][3][4]

Directed byHorace Ové
Produced byRobert Buckler
Written by
CinematographyMike Davis
Edited byAlan J. Cumner-Price
Distributed byCrawford Films, Ltd.
Release date
  • 19 October 1976 (1976-10-19) (TIFF)
  • November 1976 (1976-11) (United States)
Running time
136 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom


Tony is a British, black teenager named who was born and raised in Britain while the rest of his family — his mother, father, and older brother — were born in Trinidad in the Caribbean. This affects the family members' viewpoints about the society they live in. Tony's mother says they, as blacks, must work hard, mind their business and respect white people's laws because the whites have the power. The film shows how the older generations are satisfied with living in a society ruled by the white English, which differs from the views of the younger generation. There is a disconnect between the way Tony feels about Britain and the way that his family feels, specifically his brother. Tony's brother is active in the black power movement and is constantly discussing how blacks are treated as second-class citizens who are faced with racism in an unjust societal system. He stresses the idea of a collective effort on behalf of the blacks, as black encompasses their culture and consciousness and they must spread this consciousness. He emphasises how blacks must organise politically to deal with the situation themselves, since the government is not on their side. Tony tries to assimilate into the white-dominated society that surrounds him as well as fit in with his own family and their traditions. However, as Tony tries to assimilate and maintain his faith in a British society where he can progress, he is continuously faced with obstacles.

Tony goes dancing with a white friend and then goes back to her apartment, and a white adult screams that if he does not leave she will call the police, and that the white girl should feel ashamed for bringing back a black boy. When Tony attends one of his brother's meetings, he sees the mistreatment of blacks firsthand. Police enter the meeting forcefully and with no warrant or reason, arresting and beating up the blacks. Then, police tear apart Tony's family's home, searching for non-existent drugs. In addition to this, throughout the film, Tony cannot find a job that matches his educational qualifications. Events like these bring to light the forces of oppression and lead to Tony's disillusionment with a just English society. Tony also struggles with his identity, as a black child born in England to West-Indian parents. He has difficulty relating to his brother who was not born in Europe, while he also cannot relate to his white friends, who do not share his obstacles in England. Tony's brother feels that all whites are evil. Tony comes to his own conclusions based on his experiences, declaring that since only a handful of white people hold all the power, many white people are in the same position as blacks, but just do not realise it.



The film was well received critically. According to Julia Toppin,

Pressure is a product of its time, but the issues and themes it explores remain relevant to the black experience in Britain today, including the cycle of educational deprivation, poverty, unemployment and antisocial behaviour. The depiction of police harassment and the controversial 'sus' (suspicion) laws is echoed by the similar, and equally controversial, 'Stop and Search' policy of today. The film also explores media under-reporting and misrepresenting of black issues and protests. ...Pressure remains a key Black British film, which helps to demonstrate how modern multi-cultural Britain was shaped.[5]

In 2017, The Telegraph ranked Pressure as the 42nd greatest British film of all time.[6]


The film was shelved for almost three years by its funders, the British Film Institute (BFI), ostensibly because it contained scenes showing police brutality.[7]


  1. "PRESSURE (AA)". British Board of Film Classification. 22 November 1976. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  2. "Introduction to Pressure: A Tribute to Horace Ove", BIMI (Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image), 21 May 2018.
  3. Josanne Leonard, "An Interview with Horace Ove – Film-Maker 7/09/08. The Boy from Belmont", 22 March 2009. From Trinidad and Tobago Review, October 2007.
  4. "The British Connection – Great films from the Queen's Jubilee years", FilmClub.
  5. Toppin, Julia. "Pressure (1975)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  6. "42. Pressure (Horace Ové, 1976) - The 75 best British films ever made". The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  7. "Ové, Horace (1939-), Director, Producer, Writer". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
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