Part of Music City Mondays.
Never-before released in North America, Franco Rosso's incendiary BABYLON had its world premiere at Cannes in 1980 and was banned from the New York Film Festival that same year for "being too controversial, and likely to incite racial tension,” writes Vivien Goldman of Time Out.
With xenophobia smoldering overhead on the turbulent streets of South London, disaffected black youth seek refuge in vibrant underground dance halls. DJ’s conspire to bring peace to the people, compete to build the loudest makeshift Sound Systems, and angle to be the first to import the latest dubplates from Kingston, Jamaica.
An incisive declamation of racial inequality under Margaret Thatcher, BABYLON revolves around Rasta sound system leader Blue (Brinsley Forde) as he defends his musical ambitions against the xenophobia of employers, neighbors, police and the National Front.
Written by Martin Stellman (QUADROPHENIA) and shot by two-time Oscar® winner Chris Menges (THE KILLING FIELDS), BABYLON (Rastafarian patois for “The State & The System”) is fearless and unsentimental, tempered by the hazy bliss of the dancehall set to a blistering reggae soundtrack featuring Aswad, Johnny Clarke, Dennis Bovell, and more.
“...The first British non-documentary to center on reggae. As the editor of Horace Ové's seminal 1970 documentary REGGAE…[director Franco Rosso] was the only British filmmaker with a track record in covering reggae. With future QUADROPHENIA screenwriter Martin Stellman, he'd conceived BABYLON as a BBC TV play in 1975. The BBC passed and it took another four years to get funding. Rosso and Stellman were determined to capture the scene in the raw and took their cameras into South London's smoke-filled reggae hideouts…BABYLON couldn't have been anything but authentic.” —Kieron Tyler, The Guardian “A highly regarded film at the time of its release in 1980, BABYLON still hits hard...the issues which it tackles are still important ones today. BABYLON stands out strongly as a supreme social commentary, highlighting the horribly racist and incredibly ignorant society of the time.” —Rich Leigh, Alt-UK “In the Seventies, institutionalized racism was rife in Britain and no one was talking about it; no one was making movies. BABYLON changed all that. Or not. It came out in 1980, showed in a couple of art houses in London for the blink of any eye and then disappeared…Without attempting to grandstand, [director/co-writer] Rosso and [co-writer] Stellman have avoided racial stereotypes and faced the truth of discrimination.” —Angus Wolfe Murray, Eye For Film
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