‘White Riot’ Review: When Punk’s Stars Banded Against Racism – The New York Times

Since rock is no longer the dominant form of popular music, it’s hard to say how much good reviving the story of the British-born organization Rock Against Racism could do. But one of the many things that “White Riot,” a documentary about RAR directed by Rubika Shah, brings home is that the world could still use more somethings against racism.

The movie opens recounting two disturbing facets of 1970s Britain. First: the rise of the far-right party called the National Front, whose bids for governmental power got increasingly credible in the economically strapped nation; racist rhetoric from Enoch Powell, a prominent Conservative member of Parliament, fueled the National Front’s interests. Second: the embrace of that racist rhetoric by mainstream rock stars, including Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart, whose quoted pronouncements from that time remain appalling. (Clapton has subsequently apologized for these remarks, most recently in a 2017 documentary, but none of his expressed regrets have registered as forcefully as the initial action.)

The photographer and experimental theater director Red Saunders was both disgusted by these pronouncements and energized by seeing a gig by the Clash. So the idea of Rock Against Racism was born — not just to preach an anti-racist message, but also to integrate musicians and music.

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