Published on May 29th, 2021 | by Tim Chuma

White Riot (2019) Review

White Riot (2019) Review Tim Chuma

Summary: This is an easy recommend if you are a fan of the bands and the UK punk scene from the 1970s. There are elderly punks these days who would enjoy it.


Music kills facists

Following the formation of Rock Against Racism in 1970s England to counter the rise of the National Front this documentary follows the stories of the founders as they set up their zine Temporary Hoarding and get the music scene on board with their cause including musicians such as the Clash. There is a “good ending” with the Rock Against Racism concert in Victoria Park in London in 1978 and the National Front being defeated in elections the next year but these things have a habit of coming around again.

While the story is based in the UK a lot of the things would be appropriate for other countries as well. There was one person interviewed who gently admonished the group for “white people outrage” when people from minorities have to deal with racism every day. For white people to complain about racism it has to be pretty on the nose.

The roots of the story also date back to the Battle of Cable Street with Oswald Mosely and the Blackshirts in 1936 and by the 1970s the UK was very run down and had a lot of very old politicians like Enoch Powell who thought they could dictate how things were going to go. They were wrong.

The people involved in the formation of Rock Against Racism are still as passionate today as when they first started it in the 1970s and punk did have a lot of justified anger from social issues in the country at the time.

What helps the documentary not seem like too much of a lecture is the music featured from the Clash, Sham 69, Tom Robinson and X-Ray Spex amongst others. There is even some live performance footage of the concert in Victoria Park at the end.

I have recommended the documentary to someone I know who does a music zine and it is also good for people interested in how you start a similar movement. I did like the scenes where they went through old copies of the magazine and there were some old layouts that they kept in storage. The graphic design borrows heavily from the zine and helps set the scene.

This is an easy recommend if you are a fan of the bands and the UK punk scene from the 1970s. There are elderly punks these days who would enjoy it.


Film details:

Director: Rubika Shah

Writers: Ed Gibbs, Rubika Shah

Featuring: Red Saunders, Dennis Bovell, Mykael S. Riley, Pervez Bilgrami, Pauline Black, The Clash, Ruth Gregory, Stuart Hall, Topper Headon, David Hinds, Roger Huddle, Mick Jones, Misty In Roots, Joe Pearce, Enoch Powell, Colin Prescod, Jimmy Pursey, Tom Robinson, Sham 69, Syd Shelton, Paul Simonon, Steel Pulse, Janet Street-Porter, Joe Strummer, Poly Styrene, Gulam Taslim, Kate Webb, Marvin Webster, Lucy Whitman, X-Ray Spex

Country: UK

Length: 1hr 20min

Genre: Documentary

About the Author

Writer, photographer, artist and music fan from Melbourne, Australia.

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