Our Take – Small Axe Radical Short Film Reviews by Cole Diment
Black Tea is a short yet powerful about the dislocation of identity forged by the British Empire. As Reneque Samuels shows, the upbringing of black people under the dominion of the British Empire gave them a stern and sure feeling of British identity. However, upon arrival to the UK – we can think most obviously of the Windrush generation – the rampant racism and social exclusion proved otherwise; skin, for the white people of the UK, was a barrier to national identity.
In this brief film Samuels deftly blends multiple media sources – narration, film, archival footage, photographs – into a skilful portrait of the continued presence of this exclusionary politics. Bringing the past into the present via the archive confuses notions of temporal and social progress. We might say, just as in Dark Cell Harlem Farm (make sure to check our review as well as catch it at the festival), that the black experience is one of temporal accumulation.
But let’s not get bogged down in generalities. What makes Samuels’ film so pertinent is the ability to combine the political with the personal identity. Samuels’ makes this film from the lived experience of a dual British-Jamaican identity. The particularities of black identity within the black community is thus reflected upon: our character’s attempts at access to the restaurant are rebuffed by the black Brits who stare back at their ‘Jamaican’ counterpart. Samuels shows us, then, how black identities are still informed by colonial powers.