London, 1975. The National Front, extreme right party, has the wind in its sails. The politician Enoch Powell, member of Parliament, raged against Blacks and other minorities that threaten to invade the United Kingdom. In 1976, Eric Clapton, drunk on the stage of Birmingham, explains that the country is becoming “a colony of black”. David Bowie launches into a tirade comparing Adolf Hitler to feature rock.
Ordinary racism, obvious, institutional, is everywhere. The photographer Red Saunders has published, with other artists, an open letter taking Rod Stewart at a party and asking him to fight racism. The movement Rock Against Racism (RAR) has just been born. Quickly, ordinary citizens have joined the movement. A first concert, followed by the publication of a magazine, gives the movement a greater visibility. Groups The Clash and Steel Pulse join this fight, offering a concert in London in 1978 after a march against racism attended by 100 000 people.
Mixing interviews and documents of the time, the director Rubika Shah examines the reasons for this xenophobia, born of the past british colonizers. It takes care also to interview the members of the RAR, show their actions, capturing the atmosphere of the time in charge of the promises.
But, in doing so, the filmmaker whose “White Riot” has won several awards, also speaks today. Because the arguments are the same to get rid of people whose skin color is darker. Unemployment, immigration, invasion,… the discourse, today as yesterday, denote an irrational fear of the other. By focusing on the concrete actions of RAR, Rubika Shah also shows that ordinary citizens can quickly and without means to engage and make a difference.
With a visual style, archival, black and white, animation, etc – that captures and holds the attention, the director leads the film in this era, unknown or forgotten and creates a disturbing work of news.