Jamaican actress and radio personality Sheron Hamilton-Pearson is among the cast of actors in the iconic British film, “Pressure” recently screened in New York at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan on October 11-13, 2023. Made in 1976, it was the first film to depict the experiences of the Windrush generation, their children, and those born in the United Kingdom after the post-World War II migration from the Caribbean to the UK. The film has been remastered by the National Archive of the British Film Institute (BFI) and The Film Foundation. The 4K restoration had a joint world premiere at the 67th BFI London Film Festival and the 61st New York Film Festival.
For Hamilton-Pearson, “Pressure” is personal
Hamilton-Pearson describes “Pressure” as a film that is a fitting tribute to the parents who left their homelands to travel to the UK where they faced injustice and racism. Their story would never have been told without the tenacious efforts of Ové and the British Film Industry. It also depicts some of the struggles of the Black Power Movement. As she was a member of the Movement in her youth, the film is very personal and “redolent with memories .”
Proud to be a part of “Pressure”
She says that the film resonated with her because it was the first feature film to show what was happening to Windrush people in England in the 1970s: repression by police, harsh treatment young people faced growing up there because they were not considered to be British, although they viewed themselves so. She shared that, at the time, being a participant in the film was “just fun.” She noted that many people in the film were not professional actors and had no acting experience at all. The street boys seen shoplifting and then running into a derelict building in the film actually lived in that building, known as a “squat” at the time, so the film depicted fiction and reality at the same time. “Pressure” told the story of real people, and those who saw it when it was first released knew that.
Written by Horace Ové, starring Herbert Norville, Oscar James and Frank Singuineau, and produced by Rob Butler, Pressure was funded by the BFI in recognition that there was a lack of stories about immigrants. Hamilton-Pearson said “they wanted to add some color” to the film industry in the United Kingdom, and she was lucky enough to be part of the project. The film has been called “a gritty and dynamic study of a generation in crisis” and tells the story of children who were born to immigrants who traveled to the UK when called upon to help rebuild the country following the devastation of World War II as part of what is now known as the Windrush Generation.
Remastered version preserves Black history for future generations
Hamilton-Pearson believes the remastered version of “Pressure” is important in that it preserves and promotes the reality of what was happening to Black British immigrants and the Windrush Generation in the 1970s. It shows how England viewed these children as second-class citizens, while the children saw themselves as totally British. The remastered film offers future generations the chance to learn Black history for themselves because it is still not a focus of the history taught in schools. She praises the British film industry for funding and helping to create the film, despite the fact that it was banned for three years because its content was considered too radical for the times. It was eventually released due to the tenacity of Horace Ové and the BFI, and now even more people will have the chance to see this piece of history.
Kudos to the filmmakers and BFI
Hamilton-Pearson said she was grateful for being part of something that showed the reality many Black British people experienced, and she thanked the filmmakers, especially Horace Ové, and everyone who had a role in making the film for their effort and commitment. Horace Ové , a pioneer in Black British history, died in 2022 but was honored with a Knighthood (CBE) from Queen Elizabeth II before his death. He was the first filmmaker to document the coming of reggae from Jamaica to the UK in his documentary, “Reggae” in 1971. Originally from Trinidad, he was a photographer, painter, and writer in addition to being the first Black British filmmaker to direct a feature-length film.
Love and commitment to Jamaica
Hamilton-Pearson currently lives in New York, but lived with her grandparents in St Thomas and Kingston in Jamaica in the late 1960s and 1970s. Hamilton-Pearson remembers her time in Jamaica as extremely exciting. She cites the birth of reggae as sparking changes from colonial mindsets and describes the time as “the genesis for the foundation” that exists today as artists like Bob Marley and The Wailers, Alton Ellis, Toots Hibbert, Delroy Wilson, and others brought about the new style of music.
Throughout her career and personal life, Hamilton-Pearson has shown her dedication and commitment to the well-being of Jamaica. She was presented with a community service award from the Family Unification and Resettlement Initiative in 2013 for a fundraising effort that provided computers for a computer lab in Jamaica. She also received an Award of Merit from the Jamaica Progressive League, the New York State Assembly; a Congressional Recognition in 2018, and a Foundation Award from the Lawman Lynch Foundation in May 2023.
Sheron Hamilton-Pearson is a news presenter and contributor at Jamaicans.com.
Photo – Sheron Hamilton-Pearson