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Horace Ove C.B.E.

horaceVisual Arts

 Horace Ové has written his name into the history books as the first black British film maker to direct a feature-length film, bringing to his work a sensibility chiselled out of his experience of growing up in Belmont, Trinidad.

In 1960, with Trinidad and Tobago on the cusp of Independence, 21-year-old Horace Ové left Trinidad for England to study painting, photography and interior decorating. A chance opportunity as a _lm extra in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1963 _lm Cleopatra changed the course of his career. Captivated by _lm, he enrolled at the London School of Film Technique and began experimenting with his own productions. He quickly gravitated towards filling the void surrounding the Black experience in England, particularly the Afro-Caribbean presence. With the issue of race looming largest, Ové began his exploration with a short film titled Baldwin’s Nigger, in which the African-American novelist James Baldwin discusses the Black experience and identity in Britain and America. His next _lm, Reggae, took him inside the West Indian experience in Britain. This 1971 documentary charted the music’s popularity outside Jamaica and plumbed its socio-political meaning and impact. The film caught the attention of the BBC, which broadcast it and commissioned other work from Ové including King Carnival and episodes for The World About Us series.

Horace Ové rose to international acclaim with Pressure, a _lm about a London teenager who becomes involved in the Black Power movement of the 1970s. Its scenes of police brutality and heated racial conflict proved too much for its backers, the British Film Institute, which banned it for two years before releasing it.

Ové’s body of work includes episodes for the British television series Empire Road, and several documentaries. The Equalizer, a _lm about the 1919 Amritsar massacre in India, won two Indian Academy Awards. In 2003, he released Dream to Change the World, a documentary based on the life and work of Trinidad-born political and social activist John La Rose. A few years later, he came to Trinidad to direct Francis Escayg’s movie The Ghost of Hing King Estate (2007).

That same year, Horace Ové received the title of Commander of the Most Excellent Order (C.B.E) from Queen Elizabeth for his contribution to the British film Industry. In 2012, he was honoured in his home country with a T&T Film Pioneer Award from the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company.