Horace Ové is an accomplished Caribbean film-maker, director, screenwriter and photographer and is known internationally as one of the leading black Independent filmmakers to emerge in Britain since the post-war period.
His feature film PRESSURE is cited in the film Guinness Book of Records as the first black feature film to be made In the UK. It stars Herbert Norville, Norman Beaton, Sheila Scott-Wilkinson and Oscar James.
In it Ové follows three generations of a black family living In Britain. From the Trinidadian parents who came from the Windrush generation with their first son who becomes part of the Black Power movement, to their younger, British born son who struggles to find his place between he two cultures.
Beyond that his film career has produced such diverse films as BALDWIN’S NIGGER(1969) shot In the U.K. with James Baldwin and Dick Gregory. During the course of the film the two discuss and compare the social and political struggle of black people at the time In the U.K. and the US.
His 1970 documentary, REGGAE, was the first in depth film on reggae music. Filmed at Wembley Stadium, it was the first reggae concert to be held In Britain. The film visually illustrated the social and political messages behind the music, and was narrated by the Jamaican writer and journalist, Andrew Salkey.
KING CARNIVAL (1973) is acclaimed as the best documentary ever made concerning the history of the Trinidad Carnival, now one of the major Carnivals in the world spawning carnivals worldwide and the original force behind the Notting Hill Carnival, now the biggest street festival in Europe.
SKATEBOARD KINGS (1978) was an in-depth look at the skateboarding phenomenon at its height in the 1970’s featuring a young Tony Alva, Stacey Perralta, Jay Adams and the Dogtown Crew. Made for the BBC’s World About Us series it was a uniquely styled and groundbreaking documentary focusing on the tribal nature of the various groups involved In skateboarding at that time.
A HOLE IN BABYLON (1979) produced for the BBC’s Play for Today was an adapted true story of two West Indians and an African holding up an Italian Spaghetti House restaurant to finance an African studies programme for black British children after a refusal from the authorities. The film made an early use of cross cutting archival news footage with dramatic sequences. Some of the actual restaurant staff was used as actors and the film was shot on the actual location.
Ové also directed the documentaries, ASIAN ARTS featuring a young Anish Kapoor In the early 80’s; WHO SHALL WE TELL (1985) on the Bhopal gas disaster, and ‘DABBAWALLAHS’ (1985) tiffins (food carriers) of Bombay, who endanger their lives daily delivering home cooked lunches across the city by train, bike and on foot.
PLAYING AWAY (1986) a cinematic feature written by Caryl Phillips detailed a Brixton cricket team’s journey to play an English county cricket side and the cultural clashes that ensue. The film stars Norman Beaton, Nicholas Farrell, Joe Marcell and Stefan Kalipha.
Ové directed various episodes of the groundbreaking television series EMPIRE ROAD (1978-79), which was the earliest attempt at addressing the multicultural society that existed in Britain. Ové made his mark on the series by taking it out of the studio and onto real street locations; it starred Norman Beaton, Joe Marcell and Rudolph Walker. He directed, for the UK’s ITV network, THE LATCHKEY CHILDREN (1978~79), the first multiracial children’s drama and also directed an episode of ‘The Professionals’ titled, A MAN CALLED QUINN, starring Steven Berkoff as an ex secret service agent.
In 1991 he directed THE ORCHID HOUSE, a four part period drama set on the Caribbean island of Dominica. It tells the story of the decline of an old colonial family from the point of view of their black nanny.
It starts Madge Sinclair, Elizabeth Hurley, Nigel Terry, Lenny James, Indra Ové and Frances Barber. In 1995 he directed NATIVE SON, shot in America and Paris, a documentary produced by Madison D. Lacy for PBS and BBC2 on the life and works of America’s brilliant writer, Richard Wright.
Also in 1995 he directed THE EQUALIZER for the BBC series, Hidden Empire, about Udham Singh, a water carrier at the Amritsar Massacre, who vowed to avenge his people and eventually shot Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the former Governor of the Punjab.
The film went on to win several Asian academy Awards. In 2001 he directed dramatic sequences as well as reconstructed dance sequences for the Emmy award winning series, FREE TO DANCE, again for PBS and producer Madison 0. Lacy.
In 2005 he completed a documentary entitled DREAM TO CHANGE THE WORLD about the life of the late John La Rose, a Trinidad born, black activist, publisher, writer and founder of New Beacon Books, which screened at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2006.
Ové has also directed various plays over the years including BLACKBLAST written by Lindsay Barrett, the first black play shown at the ICA, THE SWAMP DWELLERS by Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka and THE LION by Michael Abinsetts, starring Madge Sinclair, Stefan Kalipha and Danny Sapani.
Alongside his film career, Ové has worked extensively as a photographer. He has had several exhibitions over the years across the world as well as various retrospectives at UCLA, The British Film Institute in London and the University of Tuebingen In Germany.
He had the first exhibition of a black photographer at the photographers gallery Breaking Loose followed up by another exhibition focusing on his images of Trinidad Carnival Farewell to the Flesh in 1987 at Cornerhouse in Manchester.
In 2001 he was invited to exhibit his works in Recontres de Ia Photographie in Bamako, Mali, alongside other photographers from the African diaspora.
In 2004 he had a major exhibition of his work touring Britain entitled Pressure, starting at the Nottingham Castle museum, moving to The University Brighton Gallery, The Norwich Gallery, Aberystwyth Arts centre in Wales and The Arts Depot in London.
It featured his social and political reportage work from the 1960’s and 1970’s. He also had an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 2005, work exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and The Tate Liverpool, The Whitechapel and a retrospective of his film and photographic work was held at The Barbican in London. In 2006, Horace’s films PRESSURE and DREAM TO CHANGE THE WORLD were screened at the Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow along with a talk by himself on his photographic works.
Horace has won several awards over the years; he was named Best Director for Independent Film and Television by the British Film Institute in 1986. He was the only non-Jamaican to be given a Dr. Bird award by the film industry of Jamaica for his contribution to Caribbean film-making.
He was awarded the Scarlet Ibis medal by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in recognition of his international achievements In television and film. He was recently awarded The Paul Hamlyn Award in the UK for his photographic work, the first photographer to be given such recognition by the Hamlyn Foundation.
Some of Ove’s photographs are currently part of the exhibition at Tate Britain in London called How We Are: Photographing Britain, featuring work from the 19th century onwards. In June 2007 he was honoured by Her Majesty The Queen being made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his contribution to the film industry in the UK.
He is currently editing the feature film, THE GHOST OF HING KING ESTATE, shot in Trinidad In August 2006, based on true events when six workers on an estate died in mysterious circumstances.
The overseer’s wife was blamed for poisoning them as she had a reputation as a ‘witch’ and was vilified by the larger community. After an autopsy on the sixth body (her husband), it was proved that they died of pesticide poisoning. She was freed but lives today are still haunted by the Ghost of Hing King Estate.