White Riot trailer: How Rock Against Racism fought back against the British far-right

1970s Britain is generally seen as a pretty grim part of our recent history, also evoking far too many uncomfortable parallels with life here today. Rubika Shah’s White Riot takes us back to the middle of the decade when Enoch Powell was spewing racist rhetoric and Black and Brown people bore the brunt of angry, racist white people still being sold the dream of a long-lost empire (little has changed). Shah’s film won the Best Documentary award at the London Film Festival in 2019 and focusses on the work of Rock Against Racism, a grassroots organisation who stood up to the growing threat of the likes of Powell and the National Front. You can read our review here and watch the White Riot trailer above.

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Rubika Shah’s award-winning and energising film charts a vital national protest movement. Rock Against Racism (RAR) was formed in 1976, prompted by ‘music’s biggest colonialist’ Eric Clapton and his support of racist MP Enoch Powell.White Riot blends fresh interviews with queasy archive footage to recreate a hostile environment of anti-immigrant hysteria and National Front marches. As neo-Nazis recruited the nation’s youth, RAR’s multicultural punk and reggae gigs provided rallying points for resistance. As co-founder Red Saunders explains: ‘We peeled away the Union Jack to reveal the swastika’. The campaign grew from Hoxton fanzine roots to 1978’s huge antifascist carnival in Victoria Park, featuring X-Ray Spex, Steel Pulse and of course The Clash, whose rock star charisma and gale-force conviction took RAR’s message to the masses.

White Riot heads into cinemas and BFI Player from September 18.

Steven Sheehan

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

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White Riot trailer: How Rock Against Racism fought back against the British far-right | The Digital Fix