Sir Horace Ové celebrated with 4K restoration and re-release of Pressure and BFI Southbank season

The BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation’s 4K restoration will have a joint world premiere at the 67th BFI London Film Festival and 61st New York Film Festival on 11 October.

Pressure (1975)Restoration by BFI National Archive/The Film Foundation

We’re delighted to announce that the work of Sir Horace Ové, the celebrated photographer, painter and writer, best-known as a pioneering filmmaker, is being honoured this autumn with a BFI Southbank retrospective season – Power to the People: Horace Ové’s Radical Vision – and a UK-wide cinema release of his pioneering debut feature, Pressure (1975), in a 4K restoration.

Ové’s film was originally funded by the BFI Production Board and has been restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, with additional thanks to the BFI Philanthropy ‘Pioneers of Black British Filmmaking consortium’. 

Pressure was heralded as the first full-length Black British film and is as relevant now, almost 50 years on, as it ever was. Ové’s groundbreaking exploration of the anxieties of an emerging second-generation of West Indians in Britain, receives a joint restoration world premiere at the 67th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express at BFI Southbank and as a Revivals selection at the 61st New York Film Festival on 11 October, ahead of the film’s UK-wide cinema release by BFI Distribution and on BFI Player on 3 November.

Spanning four decades and described by writer Caryl Phillips as occupying a unique place in British cinema, Ové’s filmography has encompassed cutting-edge drama and documentary, as well as programmes examining music (Reggae), culture (King Carnival, Skateboard Kings) and the visual arts. At a time when telling authentic Black stories on mainstream broadcast media was incredibly limited, Ové broke through barriers, both at the BBC and Channel 4, to create films that truly represented a multi-cultural Britain, told with an integrity that reflected his own values and political convictions. Films such as A Hole in Babylon (1979), The Garland (1981) and Playing Away (1985) all hold up a mirror, fusing political activism and a neorealist approach to cinema to create narratives that capture the essence of people and place in a multi-cultural Britain. 

Ové’s enduring legacy has inspired a whole generation of diverse Black British filmmakers and artists including Menelik Shabazz, John Akomfrah, Isaac Julien, Julien Henriques, Ngozi Onwurah, Steve McQueen, Amma Asante, Raine Allen-Mille and Dionne Edwards, to name but a few. He was knighted in the 2022 New Year Honours for services to media.

Kaz Ové for the Ové family said: “The restoration of Pressure was a revelation when watching it on the big screen, beautiful and vivid once again, we were seeing images and moments with a clarity probably not seen since the first screenings in 1976. The BFI have done an incredible job, Horace would be extremely proud that the film, its themes, ideas and aesthetics can now be seen as they should be and for generations to come.”

On the restoration of Pressure, Arike Oke, BFI executive director of Knowledge and Collections added: “Pressure is one of master artist Ové’s most vital works; for the BFI National Archive teams, The Film Foundation and our partners at Silver Salt and Molinare  to bring this film back to audiences has been an honour for us. More than a key title in Black British cinema history, this film captures the spirit of its generation, of its community. We hope that our expert and keen-eyed restoration work, completed with the guidance from the Ové family, means that even more people can feel, hear and experience the power of Pressure now, and into the future.”

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