London, 1976: The Queen’s Silver Jubilee is nigh, but the country is in the grips of a massive economic depression. The social fallout bifurcates: on the one hand, the alienated urban angst of the punk scene; on the other, the violent racism of Enoch Powell’s National Front, who seek election in order to literally eject all people of colour from the United Kingdom.
While rock legends like Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, and, yes, sadly, David bloody Bowie disgraced themselves with their overt support of Britain’s lurch towards totalitarianism (man, we forgive ‘70s era Bowie for an awful lot, don’t we?), on the streets, grassroots activists put their muscles and their minds behind a concerted effort to smash the fash. Filmmaker Rubika Shah, here making her feature debut, selects as her focus the Rock Against Racism (RAR) team, whose basic game plan was to put on gigs featuring both punk legends and reggae luminaries on the bill, with the aim of bridging the gap between oppressed people of colour and disenfranchised white, working class kids who might otherwise find solace marching to Powell’s war drum beat. The result is simply electrifying.