Documentary Movie Review: Uprising (2021) #atozchallenge

Welcome to Panorama of the Mountains! My name is Liam and I enjoy watching documentary movies.  This month I will be reviewing 26 documentaries from A-to-Z!

Documentaries starting with the letter U that I have previously reviewed include:

Release Date: July 20, 2021
Director: Steve McQueen and James Rogan
Production Company: Rogan Productions |  BBC | Lammas Park | Turbine Studios

This three part documentary series details the emergence of a new civil rights movement among Black British people in the early 1980s.  At the time, the fascist National Front was gaining support with their anti-Black and anti-immigrant views that were echoed in the opinions of the new prime minister Margaret Thatcher.  The subjects of this documentary are primarily British-born children of West Indian immigrants who grew up in this atmosphere in the 70s and 80s.

The first part focuses on an event that catalyzed the movement, a fire at a house party in South East London in January 1981 that killed 13 children and young adults.  Witnesses believe they saw someone throw a firebomb into the house (a tactic that had been used by racists elsewhere in London) but the police investigation focused on blaming the victims.  Public officials and the news media responded with indifference and derision.

The centerpiece of the second part is the Black People’s Day of Action in March 1981 when 20,000 people marched through London.  Black people from across England came to participate in the largest protest for racial justice in the nation’s history.  With growing awareness of Black power and racial tension, the spring and summer of 1981 was marred by riots throughout England.  The third part of the series focuses particularly on the riot in Brixton.

Along with a lot of phenomenal archival footage (and scored to some terrific reggae music from the period) this movie includes interviews with several survivors of the the New Cross fire and participants in the Brixton riots.  There are also interviews with many white government officials and police officers, some of whom seem to have become more culturally sensitive as a result of their experience, and some who hang themselves with their own words.

I was not familiar with these events but they seemed sadly similar to racial history in the United States.  I also noted some parallels with how British officials mismanaged The Troubles in Ireland and the Hillsborough disaster.

Rating: ****