In the 1980s, a film was released that reflected the music and injustices of the day, but its gritty nature alarmed authorities in both London and America, leading to its censorship and ban, respectively.
Surprisingly, the themes of racism, bigotry, poverty, and class that the film addressed over four decades ago are still relevant to any Black person in London.
With the Black experience in the UK not being portrayed in movies, ‘Babylon’ proved to be the answer, and no movie treating Black experiences expertly has surfaced since it made the rounds in the 1980s and 1990s.
The film’s candor in addressing discriminatory practices against Blacks, such as landlords refusing to rent rooms to persons of color and giving Black British males a face who were not well-known at the time, helped to win over audiences. Brinsley Forde as ‘Blue,’ a Black sound system DJ among a group of DJs living it out in the early 1980s, was portrayed as a young Black man pressed against a wall in the film.
In both the UK and the US, black people are more likely to be profiled and stopped by the police. When a member of Blue’s crew attacks a white friend who had become like a brother, it’s out of rage over the prejudice they’ve witnessed, according to Brinsley Forde, who spoke to vice.com about the film’s impact.
“That sequence is, indeed, incredibly moving. But it’s important to remember that many Black people have had similar experiences. You’ve been to school or work with your buddies, and you’re shouting to a friend, but they can’t say hello since their mother or crew won’t let them communicate with you. It’s sometimes unspoken with non-invitations.
“We’ve all had that experience as black people when the white friend in Ronnie finds himself separated from the crew of black friends he knew so well. When you were figuratively head-butted because you were different and didn’t fit in. We’ve got to accept it, whether it was coming into a job interview and your skin color suddenly made a difference. “Seeing it in reverse for white audiences is very dramatic,” the MBE (Order of the British Empire) honoree added.
Forde noted that the picture did not fall into the dramatization category, and that director Franco Rosso recognized the necessity to stay true to the experience, as an Italian who grew up in British society. Because they were already dealing with covert and overt racism, the actors and non-actors were given space to be themselves.
But why was the film X-rated in the United Kingdom and banned in the United States?
“I believe it’s the stabbing scene,” a woman observed, adding, “the underdog.”
“It made sense,” Forde explained. Because the image of the underdog battling back is too much for some, America turned its back on it, and England gave it an X rating. It’s a different way of thinking. Is it possible that this picture may provoke riots? Is it possible that this group will encourage others to rebel against the status quo? Maybe, and that’s exactly what happened. We’ve seen forbidden content for what it was as the years have passed. They thought differently and liberated our thoughts from what we’d come to accept as usual. There was a lot of worry in the 1980s about what movies could do to provoke people on its own.”
He thought it was nice that English Judge Leslie Scarman used the film to acquire the Black perspective for the public investigation.
Yes, a film about Jamaicans enjoying reggae, parties, and sound systems, released in 1980, generated a stir and went on to become a cult classic, resonating with reggae fans and Black Londonites despite the ban.