In 1976 the economy was at its lowest point, the media revelled in blaming immigration for the UK’s problems and even some celebrities supported this way of thinking. There were riots regularly in the streets and it felt like racial tensions were at its highest point. Sounding familiar?
Rock against Racism was a movement founded by Red Saunders and White Riot is the documentary from Rubika Shah that expands on her short documentary from 2017. At the time of writing, Shah’s documentary, the release is as relevant now as the Rock against Racism movement was in the 1970’s, but it’s a documentary that shows hope as well as a reminder that the fight against racism still goes on.
White Riot tells the story of a pivotal turning point in British politics and indeed music as celebrities such as Eric Clapton were openly showing their support for the right and other bands were inadvertently appealing to the wrong kind of people. However, Rock against Racism wasn’t a self-congratulatory and insincere concert where musicians came together to show the world they weren’t racist.
Rock against Racism was a movement that had passion behind it and thanks to interviews with Red Saunders, Pauline Black and others, White Riot reflects the anger and frustration in a time where it felt like the world was going backwards.
Shah’s documentary also manages to recreate the mood with footage of people from all areas. From black children showing hope in their eyes when they realise there are people that care, to interviews with people like Enoch Powell and the head of the Metropolitan Police who denies that racism was a concern.
White Riot shows us a time that unless you were there, you may not believe it existed because it was so long ago and there’s the underlying thought that it was ‘all right in the 70’s’.
If we weren’t in the current state politically, financially and with racism and the far right on the rise right in front of us, some of us could even dismiss White Riot because they couldn’t possibly think anything like that could happen right now. However, White Riot shows the power in standing together and fighting against the worst of humanity.
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