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“Babylon” Dealing with Discrimantion




Review by John Delia

Interesting and compelling in an odd way, the movie Babylon returns to the screen after being ignored for over 40 years. The film has a dark and disturbing aura and to be truthful it’s not for everyone. The film may be a bit difficult to watch as the Jamaican/London brogue is hard to keep up with, but the message runs clear throughout. The film is for those who would like a true experience as to what the 70’s South London was like. You may be astonished.

While I am not a big fan of the film, the content is what kept me wanting more. In the very alive with angst Brixton area of London the ethnic groups are mixed. Jamaica, a colony of Great Britain since 1655, with its citizens immigrating to London to find jobs up until the mid-1960’s have evolved and are the focal point of the story. Not welcomed by the lower class cockney natives, the neighborhood whites make idle threats, use abusive name calling with terms that denigrate, and even the police treat the Jamaicans more harshly than the White Anglo’s.

Brinsley Forde as Blue in Franco Rosso’s Babylon

Holding most of the Jamaicans together is their music, food and joy of celebration as even a small gathering can be loud with laughter and song. Their evenings find the out-of-work males gambling, smoking ganja, and plotting their next illegal operation. Well known reggae DJ Dave (Brinsley Forde) has come up with a new mix and he’s trying to excite the locals with the music. It may be just the thing to lift him out of the ghetto he was born into. It’s his way to feel above the negative life he’s been living.

David N. Haynes as Errol, Karl Howman as Ronnie, Archie Pool as Dreadhead, and Brinsley Forde as Blue in Franco Rosso’s Babylon

Things have been heating up in the village and the Brixton residents are getting restless wanting to break up the Rasta Jamaicans force them out of their neighborhood. Director Franco Rosso turns up the heat showing squabbles occurring between Whites and a small group of Jamaicans that’s causing racial tension to rise. He makes his film controversial for the time it was originally released, but with modern day understanding the film gets a pass in the USA. The recent If Beale Street Could Talk and The Hate You Give are examples of the intensity and discrimination that Babylon delivers. The reggae soundtrack really stands out providing the flavor of the Island descendants community.

Cosmo Laidlaw as the Rastaman in Franco Rosso’s Babylon

Babylon has not been rated by the MPAA, but contains violence, drug use throughout and language that includes several abusive terms for black people. Not recommended for anyone under the age of 17. My problem with the movie is the presentation of it using a lot of the mixed cockney with Patois that makes the film hard to follow. Subtitles are used in most of the Patois conversations.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Very chaotic and hard to follow. (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Brinsley Forde, Karl Howman, Treavor Laird, Archie Pool, Brian Bopvell, David N. Haynes, Stefan Kalipha, Cosmo Laidlaw, Mark Monero, Mel Smith, Cynthia Powell, T. BoneWilson and Jah Shaka as himself
Directed and written by: Franco Rosso
Genre: Drama, Music
MPAA Rating: Not Rated, contains violence, language, drug use throughout
Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.
Opening Date: MARCH 8, 2019
Distributed by: Kino Lorber Repertory
Released in: Standard

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