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Babylon [Blu-ray]

Brinsley Forde , Karl Howman , Franco Rosso    Suitable for 15 years and over   Blu-ray
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
Price: £8.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Frequently Bought Together

Babylon [Blu-ray] + Rockers [Blu-ray] [1978] [2009] [Region Free] + Rock Steady [DVD]
Price For All Three: £45.88

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Product details

  • Actors: Brinsley Forde, Karl Howman, Trevor Laird, Brian Bovell, Victor Romero Evans
  • Directors: Franco Rosso
  • Format: DVD-Video
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region B/2 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Icon Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 15 Dec 2008
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001O4KKBA
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 91,609 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Powerful portrayal of life for West Indian youths in London in the early 1980s. DJ for Brixton reggae sound system 'Ital Lion Sound', Blue (Brinsley Forde) is getting ready for the local sound system showdown with rival crew, Jah Shaka. But as the day of the competition approaches, Blue suddenly sees his life falling apart. After losing his job, he's beaten up by the police on a trumped-up charge, and then discovers that all of his sound equipment has been destroyed by local white residents, hostile to his music. Tired of having to deal with the constant daily pressures of racial-hatred and intolerance, Blue finally decides to take matters into his own hands, and strikes out at his oppressors.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Babylon" was part of a spate of movies made in the late 1970's and early 1980's which tried to put music on the big screen, making something to appeal to young people and also portray something contemporary. Whilst "Quadrophenia" seemed oddly dated and "Breaking Glass" a little cliched, "Babylon" manages to pull off most of its ambitions as this most welcome release on DVD testifies.

The film follows the fortunes of Blue - played by Brinsley Forde, the lead singer of Aswad who was a child star of the TV series "The Double Deckers" for those with a long enough memory - and his friends who are the Ital Lion soundsystem. The film documents the time up to a big soundclash between the Lion soundsystem and their rivals the Jah Shaka system - featuring DJ Jah Shaka himself. As events unfold Blue's life slowly hits a downward spiral.

Whilst, at times, the events of Blue's descent seem a little predictable this doesn't detract and is a minor criticism of what is a well paced, decently acted and well shot film. It is fascinating to see London, chiefly Lewisham, in such a deshevelled state. There is a lot of rubble and a grey hue to the place which suits the mood well. Support comes from a varitey of young black talent much of which has gone on to become fixtures on British TV.

Despite the tight budget this film has many highlights. It tackles the issue of racism unflinchingly and the scenes of abuse and brutality have a shocking power which still seems relevant today. The racism here is open, almost brazen, and one still feels uncomfortable watching it.

The other star of the show is the music which picks a few reggae gems and has a great original soundtrack composed by Dennis Bovell - surely one of the most unheralded sonic pioneers of his generation.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blue, it's a colour so true 22 Jun 2009
Format:DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Franco Rosso's 1979 film stars Aswad founder Brinsley Forde as disenfranchised DJ `Blue'. Poverty, institutionalised racism, violence and disaffection with life for a young black musician in the UK in the late 70s are the core themes of the movie, and Forde's assured acting supported by future `Brushstrokes' star Karl Howman and drug dealer Trevor Laird makes this a powerful film of its time as well as an important and timeless social comment.

There are some good DVD extras on here too; there is a Babylon commentary track featuring producer Gavrik Losey, lead actor Brinsley Forde, so-writer Martin Stellman and director Franco Rosso. Having this much aural input usually ends in chaos, but not here. With perfect manners and a delicate sensibility towards any suggestion of memory loss, they don't talk over each other and actually have an impressive amount of recollections considering so much time has passed since the film was made. Amongst other anecdotes we learn that although set in Brixton, most of the film was shot in Deptford and Lewisham.

It is an understatement to say that Babylon was before its time. Despite not being well received by a guilty and shamed society, the film did its part in helping Lord Scarman to stamp out police racism and sits proudly in the BFI's annals as a modern classic.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Kid's Review
Set in the early 80s this film tells the story of a bunch of young black adults trying to run a successful sound system & culminates in a Battle of Sound Systems.

The film features a soundtrack of roots type reggae, mostly from Asward & is presented very clearly despite the films age.

Some of the dialogue can be a little hard to follow but that's not the sound - that's the West Indian accents !!

The picture too is generally good although a bit grainy in parts.

Although this is about music & winning the competition, the real enjoyment comes in seeing this film as a record of social history - what it was like to be black in the 80s; the casual racism of working class white people, the violence on the streets & from the police & the 'interesting' fashions of the time!

This includes big locks sometimes hidden by bigger hats, authoritarian parents & young people tying to make a go of things.

Look out for a short piece from Mel Smith as the racist garage owner some of the gang work for, Brinsley Forde one time of the Double Deckers kids programme & Victor Romeo Evans a well known black cult comedian.

The film ends with the police breaking up the blues party but the toaster still defiantly playing the music.

A film to watch if you know who Janet Kay/Asward are & have ever enjoyed curry goat in a damp church hall at someone's wedding reception!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Seen today, Babylon works better as a time capsule of a certain time and place - both in British cinema and on the streets - than as a movie in itself. Once groundbreaking, years of 1980s miserablist dramas about life at the bottom have worn away some of the film's edge, while the 70s patois that makes up part of the dialogue in several scenes at times turns the film into an unsubtitled foreign movie for many modern audiences.

Fitting somewhere between the kitchen sink dramas of the 50s and 60s and the kind of confrontational TV plays directed by Alan Clarke - in fact, this was originally going to be a BBC production before they pulled the plug after filming started in the wake of the TV version of Clarke's Scum being banned - it's the kind of film that originally seemed to mark out a lot of promising careers that never really took off. Leading man, former Double Decker and lead singer of Aswad (who provide much of the film's soundtrack) Brinsley Forde didn't make another film for 21 years; director Franco Rosso only made one more film, a disastrously misjudged adaptation of Janni Howker's superb children's novel The Nature of the Beast; writer Martin Spellman, coming off Quadraphenia, would see his scripts go unproduced for a couple of decades after Defence of the Realm and For Queen and Country. Indeed, of the cast only Mel Smith, as a racist garage owner and a surprisingly natural Karl Howman as the soul white member of Forde's group would become familiar faces. As a result, the film seems very much stuck in its time and attitudes.

While the racial tension and feeling of dancing on the edge of a volcano haven't dated, the attitudes are more confrontational than they would be today.
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