White Riot

About the film

Release Date: Mar 18, 2021
Rating: MA15
Runtime: 80 mins
Director: Rubika Shah
Britain, late-1970s. Punk is exploding. The country is deeply divided over immigration. The National Front, a far right and fascist political party, is gaining strength as politicians like Enoch Powell push a xenophobic agenda. Outraged by a racist speech from Eric Clapton, music photographer Red Saunders writes a letter to the music press, calling for rock to be a force against racism. NME, Melody Maker, and Sounds all publish the letter.

Flooded with responses, Red discovers many share his views. Teaming up with like-minded creatives Roger Huddle, Kate Webb, Syd Shelton and Australian graphic designer Ruth Gregory, the team bands together to create Rock Against Racism (RAR) and a fanzine, Temporary Hoarding. Speaking directly to the youth, Temporary Hoarding reports stories and issues that the mainstream British media ignores, like immigration, the Catholic side of the Northern Ireland conflict, and the police’s controversial “suspected persons” (sus) powers. They give a voice to the voiceless. The National Front begins to strike back, committing acts of violence against RAR supporters and petrol-bombing their HQ. Despite this, RAR spreads virally across the UK and into Europe, becoming a grassroots youth movement. The Clash, Steel Pulse, Tom Robinson and other top bands of the day jump on board.

White Riot is a moment in time when music changed the world. When a generation challenged the status quo. It’s Woodstock meets the March on Washington, punk-style.

• Winner – Documentary Film - BFI London Film Festival 2019
• Winner – Best Music Documentary – Krakow Film Festival 2020
• Special Mention – Youth Jury Generation 14plus Best Film – Berlin International Film Festival 2020

“An engaging historical story with timely contemporary echoes.” – Hollywood Reporter
“White Riot is a stunning, often terrifying film.” – The Film Stage
“A highly engaging and suddenly very relevant documentary” – Screen International
“The group got things done, and the movie is especially compelling in its depiction of political organization in the analog age.” – New York Times
“Rubika Shah's White Riot is an engaging and important study of Rock Against Racism.” – CineVue

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