The less heard, the less obvious.

Earl Cameron: The black pioneer of British film

From the moment he first appeared on screen, as a young Bermudan in Ealing Studios' Pool of London, Earl Cameron brought a breath of fresh air to the British film industry's stuffy depictions of race relations.

The work of Earl Cameron mirrored important changes in both British cinema and society. After appearing on London’s West End stage, he became one of the first black stars in the British film industry. His breakthrough acting role was in Pool of London, a 1951 film, set in post-war London involving racial prejudice, romance — Cameron’s character is a merchant sailor who falls in love with a young white woman – the first time this had been sensitively touched upon in British cinema. 

Often cast as a sensitive outsider, Cameron gave his characters a grace and moral authority that often surpassed the films’ compromised liberal agendas. Playing a pivotal role in a countless number of films spanning across an incredible 62 year career, in an interview with the Guardian at the age of 99, Cameron said “I never saw myself as a pioneer. It was only later, looking back, that it occurred to me that I was.”

This month BFI Southbank will chart the trajectory of Earl Cameron’s unique film and TV career. Programmed by actor, broadcaster and director Burt Caesar, the season is a tribute to the actor, who passed away in July 2020 at the age of 102, after seven decades of memorable on screen performances. The season began on August 1st with Celebrating Britains First Black Screen Star. In addition to screenings of Cameron’s first film, Pool of London, other titles in the season will include Flame in the Streets, A Warm December, and many more.  

BFI Southbank’s Earl Cameron season runs until 31 August. Tickets on sale now at BFI.

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