Horace Ové

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Horace Ové

Horace Courtenay Jones

(1936-12-03)3 December 1936
Died16 September 2023(2023-09-16) (aged 86)
London, England
  • Director
  • producer
  • photographer
Known forFirst black British filmmaker to direct a feature-length film
Notable workPressure (1976)
Children5, including Indra and Zak
FamilyStefan Kalipha (cousin)[1]
AwardsKnight Bachelor (2022)

Sir Horace Shango Ové CBE (born Horace Courtenay Jones; 3 December 1936[2][3][a] – 16 September 2023) was a Trinidadian-born British filmmaker, photographer, painter and writer based in London, England. One of the leading black independent filmmakers to emerge in Britain in the post-war period, Ové was the first black British filmmaker to direct a feature-length film, Pressure (1976).[4][5] In its retrospective documentary 100 Years of Cinema, the British Film Institute (BFI) declared: "Horace Ové is undoubtedly a pioneer in Black British history and his work provides a perspective on the Black experience in Britain."[6]

Ové built a prolific and sometimes controversial career as a filmmaker, documenting racism and the Black Power movement in Britain over many decades through photography and in films such as Baldwin's Nigger (1968), Pressure, and Dream to Change the World (2003). Ové's documentaries, including Reggae (1971) and Skateboard Kings (1978), have also become models for emerging filmmakers. He was awarded a knighthood in the 2022 New Year Honours for services to media.[7]

Early years[edit]

Horace Ové was born Horace Courtenay Jones on 3 December 1936[8][9] in Belmont, Trinidad and Tobago, where he grew up as part of a large and "somewhat bohemian family – a mixture of African, Indian, French and Spanish".[10] As Attilah Springer has noted, he "was born into the Jones clan.... The Jones name was not theirs originally, but Ové's grandfather changed it when he wanted to open a business in downtown Port of Spain; Indian-sounding places of business were not acceptable at that time in colonial Trinidad."[11] Ové's parents Lorna and Lawrence were the first people to open shops or cafés to help Trinidad's poor black population.[12]

In 1960, after legally changing his name to Horace Ové, he moved to Britain to study painting, photography and interior design.[13] He also lived for a while in Rome, Italy, as a painter.[10] His entry into the film world was through working as a film extra on the set of the 1963 Joseph L. Mankiewicz epic historical drama Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor, after its production moved to Rome.[14]

Ové returned to London, where he lived during his early years in Brixton, West Hampstead and Camden Town, marrying Irish immigrant Mary Irvine, and studying at the London School of Film Technique.[12]

As film director[edit]

In 1966, Ové directed The Art of the Needle, a short film for the Acupuncture Association. In 1969, he made another short film, titled Baldwin's Nigger, in which African-American writer James Baldwin – in conjunction with civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory – discusses Black experience and identity in Britain and the US.[15] Filmed at the West Indian Students' Centre in London, the film documents a lecture by Baldwin and a question-and-answer session with the audience.[16][17]

Ové's next film, shot at a concert in Wembley Arena in 1970, was a documentary called Reggae,[18][19] which was successful in cinemas and was shown on BBC television. Ové subsequently made other documentaries for the BBC, including King Carnival (1973, in The World About Us series), which has been acclaimed as "one of the best ever made about the history of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival".[20] Then, in 1976, he directed the film for which he is best-known, Pressure – the first full-length drama feature film by a Black director in Britain, which he co-wrote with Samuel Selvon.[21] Telling the story of a London teenager who joins the Black Power movement in the 1970s, Pressure featured scenes of police brutality that ostensibly led to its banning for nearly three years by its own backers, the British Film Institute,[22] before it was eventually released to wide acclaim.[23][24]

Ové's other television work included directing A Hole in Babylon (co-written with Jim Hawkins, based on the Spaghetti House siege, featuring a cast including T-Bone Wilson, Trevor Thomas and Archie Pool), made for the BBC's Play for Today series, and first transmitted on 29 November 1979;[25][26] four episodes of the pioneering series Empire Road in 1979, an episode of The Professionals ("A Man Called Quinn", 1981) and The Equalizer (shown on 8 January 1996 in the BBC series Hidden Empire),[27] about the 1919 Amritsar Massacre, which won two Indian Academy Awards in 1996.[28]

Ové co-wrote with H. O. Nazareth the script of the television film The Garland (1981),[29] which led to the creation of an independent production company named Penumbra.[30] Alongside Ové and Nazareth, other members of Penumbra Productions included Michael Abbensetts, Lindsay Barrett, Margaret Busby, Farrukh Dhondy, and Mustapha Matura.[31]

Ové's film Playing Away (1987, with a screenplay by Caryl Phillips), starring Norman Beaton and other actors such as Joseph Marcell, Ram John Holder, Brian Bovell, and Stefan Kalipha (incidentally, Ové's cousin),[4] centres on the residents of the fictional British village of Sneddington, who invite the "Caribbean Brixton Conquistadors" (from South London) for a cricket match to commemorate "African Famine Week".[32]

Ové's 2003 film Dream to Change the World (edited by Pete Stern)[33][34] was a documentary about the life and work of John La Rose (1927–2006), the Trinidad-born activist, publisher and writer and founder of New Beacon Books in London.[35]

As photographer[edit]

In parallel to his career in films is Ové's photography, which has been variously exhibited internationally over the decades, including at UCLA, the British Film Institute and the University of Tübingen, Germany.[36] In 1984, he had the first solo exhibition by a Black photographer at The Photographers' Gallery, entitled Breaking Loose: Horace Ove, a retrospective that examines "his early photojournalism and the emergence of a strongly identifiable black culture in a post-colonial Britain" as well as documenting his travels throughout Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.[37] Following this was another exhibition that focused on his images of Trinidad Carnival, Farewell to the Flesh, at Cornerhouse in Manchester,[36] from 28 February to 5 April 1987.[38]

In 2001, he was invited to exhibit his works in Recontres de la Photographie in Bamako, Mali.[36]

In 2004, the exhibition Pressure: Photographs by Horace Ové, described as "the first in-depth look at his photographic back catalogue", curated by Jim Waters and David A. Bailey, in association with Autograph ABP,[39] toured Britain, starting at Nottingham Castle museum,[40][41] moving to the University of Brighton Gallery, the Norwich Gallery, Aberystwyth Arts Centre in Wales and the Arts Depot in London.[36] A 34-page publication by the curators contained an extract from an interview with Ové by Michael McMillian.[42] According to a description of that exhibition:

1960's Britain was a hotbed of political and creative activity, writers and thinkers came from around the world to discuss civil rights issues and form new movements. Horace Ové was at many of the meetings and captured the events as they unfolded, including the first Black Power meeting with Stokely Carmichael, Allen Ginsberg and Michael X, founder of the black power movement in the UK with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He also photographed figures of the period including C. L. R. James, James Baldwin and Darcus Howe as well as Sam Selvon, Andrew Salkey and John La Rose the founding members of the Caribbean Artists' Movement.[43] Ové also recorded the birth of the Notting Hill Carnival and charted its growth through the 1970s and 1980s from the early beginnings with the first Windrush generation to the pumping sound systems, fashions and street dancing of the younger generation. He has also recently brought his work up to date with new portraits of people like Sir Trevor MacDonald and Professor Stuart Hall.[39]

Ové had an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 2005, as well as work exhibited at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Liverpool, the Whitechapel Gallery and a retrospective of his film and photographic work at the Barbican.[44][45] His work also featured in the Tate Britain exhibition How We Are: Photographing Britain.[46]

Interviewed in 2010 by The Guardian about his iconic 1967 photograph of Michael X with bodyguards at Paddington Station, Ové said: "I'm a film-maker as well as a photographer, and I live in a visual world. I've always been an active photographer – if there's anything going on socially or politically, I want to know about it. So the late 1960s and early 70s were a very busy time for me."[47]

Ové also photographed artist Chris Ofili in Trinidad,[48] and portraits of other Black creatives featured on his website include Linton Kwesi Johnson, Derek Walcott, Margaret Busby, Caryl Phillips, Ram John Holder, James Earl Jones, Rudolph Walker, Madge Sinclair, Melvin Van Peebles, John Akomfrah, Isaac Julien and Jimmy Cliff.[49]

As theatre director[edit]

During the course of his career Ové also directed stage plays, including in 1973 Blackblast written by Lindsay Barrett, the first Black play to be shown at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Swamp Dwellers by Wole Soyinka, and in 1993 The Lion by Michael Abbensetts, for Talawa Theatre Company at the Cochrane Theatre[50] (30 September–23 October; also on British Council tour to Jamaica, performed at the Ward Theatre, Kingston, 3–13 November),[51][52][53] starring Madge Sinclair, Stefan Kalipha and Danny Sapani.[36]

Directing style[edit]

In terms of style as a director, Ové admitted to being heavily influenced by neo-realism, having studied European filmmakers such as De Sica, Antonioni, Buñuel and Fellini during his time living in Rome.[54][55] He acknowledged influences from African-American political leaders of the 1960s and 1970s such as Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael but was somewhat disparaging of contemporary Black politics in Britain: "In black British politics there are still lot of things that are missing, that are not said."[54]

Personal life and death[edit]

Ové's first wife was Mary Irvine, with whom he had five children, including actress Indra Ové and artist Zak Ové. Ové's subsequent marriage to Annabelle Alcazar (who was one of the producers of Pressure and of later films, including 2007's The Ghost of Hing King Estate), ended in separation after 25 years.[9]

Ové died in London on 16 September 2023, after suffering with Alzheimer's for some years, as reported by his son.[13] He was 86.[2] The BFI, which had scheduled a retrospective titled Power to the People: Horace Ové's Radical Vision,[56] said in tribute to his career that spanned four decades and encompassed "cutting-edge drama and documentary" that he "worked outside of the system, showing generations of black film-makers that it could be done, and that their voices have power."[2][8][57]

Awards, honours and recognition[edit]

Ové was the recipient of the Scarlet Ibis medal from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in recognition of his international achievements in television and film, and in 1986 was named Best Director for Independent Film and Television by the British Film Institute,[36] awarded for his "contribution to British culture".[58]

In 2006, he was one of five winners of the £30,000 Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Visual Arts.[59]

Ové was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2007 Birthday Honours for his contributions to the film industry in the UK.[28]

In November 2011, three young filmmakers competing on Dragons' Den as part of the 55th BFI London Film Festival Education Events, First Light, won £2000 funding and professional mentoring having successfully pitched their idea to make a short documentary about Horace Ové.[60]

At the 2012 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, Ové was honoured as a "T&T Film Pioneer".[61][62]

In 2013, the government of Trinidad and Tobago recognized him as a National Icon, one of "60 nationals and organizations who have personified and epitomised the strong values, fundamental beliefs, and cultural aspirations of our society".[63]

In 2017, at the 12th Screen Nation Film and Television Awards, Ové was honoured with the Edric Connor Trailblazer award.[64]

Ové was awarded the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) Special Jury Prize 2018, with the citation stating: "In a year where Windrush has been plastered across newspaper headlines, it seems fitting that the jury have chosen to honour one of the generation's proudest voices."[65]

Ové was knighted in the 2022 New Year Honours for services to media.[66][67][68] Also in 2022, The Film and Television Charity launched a fund named in his honour, the Sir Horace Ové Grant, aiming "to help Black and Global Majority people working behind the scenes in film, TV, and cinema to access opportunity and navigate barriers to career progression".[69][70]

Influence and legacy[edit]

The 2019 Somerset House exhibition Get Up, Stand Up Now, curated by Zak Ové, celebrated 50 years of Black creativity in Britain and beyond, beginning with "Horace Ové and his dynamic circle of Windrush generation creative peers, and extending to today's brilliant young Black talent globally".[6][71][72][73]

A retrospective season titled Power to the People: Horace Ové's Radical Vision was announced for autumn 2023 as a celebration of his work at the BFI Southbank,[74] featuring a restored version of Pressure to be premiered at the London Film Festival.[56][75][76]

Selected filmography[edit]

Selected exhibitions[edit]


  • Jim Waters and David Bailey (eds), Pressure: Photographs by Horace Ove, Nottingham City Museums & Galleries, 2004. ISBN 978-0905634678


  1. ^ Obituaries of Ové state that he died at the age of 86, although his year of birth has often been given as 1939, rather than 1936.


  1. ^ Cobbinah, Angela (17 March 2022). "Stefan Kalipha: 'I felt acting was my destiny'". Camden New Journal. Retrieved 19 March 2023.
  2. ^ a b c "[UPDATED] Tributes for pioneering filmmaker Horace Ové". Trinidad and Tobago Newsday. 16 September 2023. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  3. ^ "Sir Horace Ové obituary". The Times. 18 September 2023. Sir Horace Ové, film-maker and photographer, was born on December 3, 1936. He died after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease on September 16, 2023, aged 86.
  4. ^ a b Josanne Leonard, "An Interview with Horace Ove – Film-Maker 7/09/08. The Boy from Belmont", 22 March 2009. From Trinidad and Tobago Review, October 2007.
  5. ^ "The British Connection – Great films from the Queen's Jubilee years", FilmClub.
  6. ^ a b "Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Peers" (12 June–15 September 2019), Somerset House.
  7. ^ Bedigan, Mike (31 December 2021). "Pioneering director Horace Ove given knighthood in New Year Honours". Evening Standard. London.
  8. ^ a b Badshah, Nadeem (16 September 2023). "Horace Ové, pioneering black British film-maker, dies aged 86". The Guardian.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Gilbey, Ryan (17 September 2023). "Sir Horace Ové obituary". The Guardian.
  10. ^ a b Polly Pattullo, "Horace Ové: Coming Home", Caribbean Beat, Issue 10, Summer 1994.
  11. ^ Attilah Springer & Ubikwist, "Horace Ové", Modern Forms.
  12. ^ a b Laura Enfield, "'I encountered terrible racism' says legendary Crouch End filmmaker Horace Ové", Enfield Independent, 6 May 2015.
  13. ^ a b Green, Penelope (2 October 2023). "Horace Ové, Pioneering Black Filmmaker in Britain, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  14. ^ "Horace Ove CBE", The British Blacklist.
  15. ^ Paul Ward, Horace Ové biography, from Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors, via BFI Screenonline.
  16. ^ a b Inge Blackman. "Baldwin's Nigger (1969)". Screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Baldwin's Nigger 1 of 3"; "Baldwin's Nigger 2 of 3"; "Baldwin's Nigger 3 of 3".
  18. ^ "One of the first and best reggae documentaries ever made", Dangerous Minds.
  19. ^ "Reggae Wembley 1970 Boss Sounds!!" on YouTube.
  20. ^ "horace ove's king carnival still reigns after 44 years". trinidad+tobago film festival. 2017.
  21. ^ "Amplify Black Voices: An introduction to Sam Selvon". Scottish Pen. 17 September 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  22. ^ Ward, Paul. "Ové, Horace (1939–) Biography". BFI Screenonline. Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors. Retrieved 20 September 2023.
  23. ^ "42. Pressure (Horace Ové, 1976) – The 75 best British films ever made". The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  24. ^ Clark, Ashley (19 June 2020). "From Pressure to The Last Tree: 10 of the best black British films". The Guardian.
  25. ^ "A Hole in Babylon", Play For Today, BBC One.
  26. ^ Onyekachi Wambu, "Hole in Babylon, A (1979)", Screenonline, BFI.
  27. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | The Equalizer (1996)". 14 December 2013. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  28. ^ a b Alcazar, Annabelle (2015). "Horace Ové, Cultural Icon: A Tribute". Caribbean Quarterly. 61 (2/3): 143–146. doi:10.1080/00086495.2015.11672567. ISSN 0008-6495. JSTOR 26155801. S2CID 163600286.
  29. ^ "Shai Mala Khani The Garland (1981)". BFI. Archived from the original on 17 July 2020. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  30. ^ Bhuchar, Suman (2002). "H O Nazareth". In Alison Donnell (ed.). Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture. Routledge. pp. 214–215. ISBN 9781134700257.
  31. ^ Busby, Margaret (November 2016). "2015: The Year of Being Connected, Exhibition-wise". Wasafiri. 31 (4).
  32. ^ Playing Away page at Screenonline.org.uk.
  33. ^ "Dream to Change the World – A Tribute to John La Rose", Vimeo.
  34. ^ "Dream to Change the World – A Tribute to John La Rose" at petestern.com.
  35. ^ Spark, Stephen (18 September 2023). "Closing credits and a retrospective for film-maker Horace Ové". Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  36. ^ a b c d e f g "Horace Ove – Filmography", Caribbean360, 5 October 2007.
  37. ^ a b Noble, Alex (1984). "Breaking Loose: Horace Ové | Thu 13 September 1984 – Fri 12 October 1984". The Photographers' Gallery. Retrieved 20 September 2023.
  38. ^ "Derek Bishton and Ten.8". Connecting Histories. 13 July 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2023.
  39. ^ a b c "Horace Ove 'Pressure'", University of Brighton Gallery, 2004.
  40. ^ "Pressure | Photographs by Horace Ové – invite card", Diaspora Artists.
  41. ^ "Photographs By Horace Ové At Nottingham Castle", ArtDaily, 2004.
  42. ^ "Pressure | Photographs by Horace Ové" at Diaspora Artists.
  43. ^ "The Lime (Samuel Selvon; John La Rose; Andrew Salkey)" – photography by Horace Ové, 1974. British Library.
  44. ^ Horace Ové biography, Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival 2007.
  45. ^ Janssen, Kim (1 July 2005). "Horace's life in black power". Camden New Journal.
  46. ^ Cumming, Laura (27 May 2007), "Photography: It's the national family album... and we're all in it" (review of "How We Are: Photographing Britain"), The Observer.
  47. ^ Pulver, Andrew (25 August 2010). "Photographer Horace Ové's best shot". The Guardian.
  48. ^ "Horace Ové" at Diaspora Artists.
  49. ^ "Photography". Horace Ové. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  50. ^ "Lion, The – By Michael Abbensetts", National Theatre, Black Plays Archive.
  51. ^ Geoffrey V. Davis, Anne Fuchs (eds), Staging New Britain: Aspects of Black and South Asian British Theatre Practice, Presses Interuniversitaires Européennes, 2006, p. 98.
  52. ^ "Records of Talawa Theatre Company, 1962–2007: Production management correspondence, 1985–2006", Victoria and Albert Museum: Theatre Collections.
  53. ^ "Production management correspondence for 'The Lion'", Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum, Theatre and Performance Archives, via The National Archives.
  54. ^ a b Janssen, Kim (1 July 2005). "Horace's life in black power". New Journal Enterprises.
  55. ^ Kafi Kareem, "Trinbagonianness in Film: National Identity in Trinidad and Tobago Cinema", Senses of Cinema, Issue 59, 23 June 2011.
  56. ^ a b "Sir Horace Ové celebrated with 4K restoration and re-release of Pressure and BFI Southbank season". BFI. 21 August 2023. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  57. ^ a b Ramachandran, Naman (17 September 2023). "Horace Ové, Pioneering Black British Filmmaker, Dies at 86". Variety. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  58. ^ Frow, Mayerlene, "Document resumé: Roots of the Future: Ethnic Diversity in the Making of Britain", Commission for Racial Equality, London (England), 1997.
  59. ^ Paul Hamlyn Foundation Archived 17 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine, 10 November 2006.
  60. ^ "Young Filmmakers win £2,000 in X-Factor meets Dragon's Den Pitching Competition!", First Light, 4 November 2011.
  61. ^ Leiselle Maraj, "Film festival honours Horace Ove", Trinidad & Tobago Newsday, 5 September 2012.
  62. ^ "Tribute to Horace Ové at the ttff/12", Trinidad + Tobago Film Festival, 18 September 2012.
  63. ^ "National Icons of The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago", 2013.
  64. ^ "Award Season: The 12th Annual Screen Nation Awards", The Voice, 8 May 2017.
  66. ^ "No. 63571". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 2022. p. N2.
  67. ^ "The full New Year honours list 2022 as Chris Whitty is knighted". The Scotsman. 1 January 2022. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  68. ^ James, Lennie (21 June 2022). "Once banned, now knighted: how Horace Ové became the godfather of black British film-making". The Guardian.
  69. ^ "Applications are now open for our new fund, the Sir Horace Ové Grant which is in addition to our existing Stop Gap Grants". The Film and TV Charity. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
  70. ^ Goldbart, Max (31 October 2022). "Film & TV Charity Launches $57,000 Grant For People From Ethnic Minority Backgrounds, Named After Pioneering Black Filmmaker Sir Horace Ové". Deadline. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
  71. ^ Grant, Colin (2 June 2019). "Get Up, Stand Up Now: Black British art's response to the Windrush scandal". The Guardian.
  72. ^ Cochrane, Lauren (11 June 2019). "Get Up, Stand Up Now: the show that questions the lack of diversity in art galleries". The Guardian.
  73. ^ "Get Up, Stand Up Now podcast". Somerset House. 27 May 2019.
  74. ^ "Power to the People: Horace Ové's Radical Vision". BFI Southbank. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  75. ^ Ramachandran, Naman (21 August 2023). "Pioneering Black British Filmmaker Horace Ové's Restored 'Pressure' to Premiere at London, New York Film Festivals Ahead of Career Retrospective". Variety. Retrieved 17 September 2023.
  76. ^ Grant, Colin (24 October 2023). "'He showed our lives in ways that had never been seen': Horace Ové, pioneer of black British cinema". The Guardian.
  77. ^ a b "Horace Ové | Filmography". BFI. Archived from the original on 13 June 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2023.
  78. ^ "Coleherne Jazz and Keskidee Blues (1972)", BFI Film Forever.
  79. ^ Matthews, Jodie (2023). The British Industrial Canal: Reading the Waterways from the Eighteenth Century to the Anthropocene. University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-1-83772-005-7.
  80. ^ "The Mangrove Nine", The British Blacklist.
  81. ^ a b c Shaw, Sally (2013). British Film Culture in the 1970s. Edinburgh University Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-7486-5428-4.
  82. ^ "Stretch Hunter (1980)". BFI. Archived from the original on 17 July 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  83. ^ Gifford, Denis (2016). British Film Catalogue: Two Volume Set – The Fiction Film/The Non-Fiction Film. Routledge. p. 901. ISBN 978-1-317-74063-6.
  84. ^ Kaloi, Stephanie (17 September 2023). "Sir Horace Ové, Visionary British Filmmaker, Dies at 86". TheWrap.
  85. ^ a b c Murphy, Robert (2019). Directors in British and Irish Cinema: A Reference Companion. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 469. ISBN 978-1-83871-533-5.
  86. ^ "Dabbawallahs (1985)". BFI. Archived from the original on 14 January 2019. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  87. ^ "Who Shall We Tell? (1985)". BFI. Archived from the original on 17 July 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  88. ^ "Horace Ové". BFI. Archived from the original on 13 June 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2023.

Further reading[edit]

  • Givanni, June, "Horace Ové – Reflection on a Thirty-Year Experience", Black Film Bulletin, Summer 1996, pp. 16–21.

External links[edit]