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BABYLON is released in the US this March

Unused poster concept for the film Babylon.
An unused poster concept for Babylon given to Mamoun Hassan

Kino Lorber Repertory and new distributor Seventy Seven are releasing BABYLON in the US next month. The film opens at the BAM Theatre in Brooklyn on 8 March, in Los Angeles on 15 March, and more widely after that.

Forty years ago I backed my first film as managing director of the National Film Finance Corporation [NFFC]: that film was BABYLON. The Board members were invited to take a leap in the dark. The BBC had developed the script but had passed on it; the British Film Institute Production Board under Peter Sainsbury had rejected it. BABYLON was a first film for the director; it had no stars, a wholly unfamiliar cast, dialogue and accents that required subtitles in parts, as if it were a foreign film – which of course it was to most people; it was violent, and it had no distribution guarantee or co-investor. I recommended we invest 83% of the budget: anything less would not get the film made. It was unheard of. Historically, the NFFC offered 30% at most. Further, a couple of years earlier the NFFC had invested in Anthony Simmons’s BLACK JOY, described by a critic as a ‘lightly ironic clash of cultures comedy’. The auguries were not good.

The script of BABYLON was co-written by Martin Stellman and Franco Rosso. There was no producer attached, but Franco and Martin had Stephen Frears in mind as director. I knew Stephen and admired his work, but the script was uniquely authentic, born out of Martin’s and Franco’s direct experience of the lives of black youth in south London. I thought Stephen would make a fine film, but it would perforce be a foreign correspondent’s view. Although neither of the two scriptwriters had directed a feature before, I suggested that one of them should direct it. Franco became the director and Martin the associate producer. Chris Menges agreed to shoot the film and Gavrik Losey joined as producer. The Board finally agreed my proposal.

The first five minutes of the film will tell you why I backed BABYLON.

BABYLON lives.

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Babylon – a Conversation at Theatre Utopia with Lee Fairweather

We are pleased to be able to share the conversation about Babylon from the event at Theatre Utopia in December 3rd 2015.

Despite the loud live music that was being played in the same building, the conversation was lively, and covered not just the film but also the issue of positive discrimination and the politics of race in cinema and society.

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Babylon at Theatre Utopia – afterword

babylonThere was a vigorous discussion following the screening of BABYLON at Theatre Utopia in Croydon.  Apart from the social references, a recurring question was whether BABYLON would have been financed and made today – whether the political and financial barriers are too great.  Strong views were expressed. BABYLON is still relevant; BABYLON is still alive.

Mamoun wrote an article in 2008 to accompany the DVD release by ICON FILMS. Things had changed between 1980 and 2008, and more dramatically since then. It is not the same country anymore. The generation in BABYLON are now parents, even grandparents.  We are now suffering the birth pangs of a multicultural Britain. It is more tumultuous in every way. I hope to see the new BABYLON soon.

Thank you Lee Fairweather.

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Babylon Film Screening with Q&A with Mamoun Hassan – December 3rd, Theatre Utopia, Croydon

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Mamoun will be a special guest at a screening of Babylon (1980), to take part in a Q&A with Lee Fairweather at Theatre Utopia in Croydon on Thursday 3rd December.  This was a film that Mamoun backed during his period as Head of the National Film Finance Corporation that has gone on to be a highly influential movie. Tickets are limited availability.

Sherief Hassan will be filming the Q&A to produce a limited extract of highlights which we hope to share shortly after the event.

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