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Bandung File (1985-91)

Courtesy of Channel Four Television

Main image of Bandung File (1985-91)
Bandung Productions for Channel 4, tx. 12/9/1985-13/8/1991
92 x 60 min edns, colour
Series EditorsDarcus Howe
 Tariq Ali
ProducersGreg Lanning
 David Cohen
 Roger Thomas

Presenters: Darcus Howe, Gita Sahgal, John Buckley

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Documentary and current affairs with an Afro-Asian perspective.

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Taking a taut, sometimes abrasive, though always immediate approach to a black media perspective, the multicultural current affairs/documentary programme The Bandung File was one of the conspicuous successes of early Channel 4.

Commissioned by Farrukh Dhondy, Channel 4's editor for multicultural programmes, in a determined move away from the earlier Channel 4 programmes for ethnic minorities (which had mixed showbiz and politics, with an Afro-Asian slant), the series was produced by Bandung Productions under the joint programme editorship of Tariq Ali and Darcus Howe.

The company took its name from the 1955 conference held in Bandung, Indonesia, which had been the meeting point for the leaders of the post-colonial, newly independent states of Africa and Asia. Following in the spirit of the original conference, both Bandung Productions and The Bandung File were created to present the interests of the Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities in Britain.

The Bandung File filled the niche vacated by Eastern Eye (1982-85) and Black on Black (1982-85) - two series axed by Dhondy in an unpopular decision - and offered the concept of a multicultural, multi-ethnic style of journalism capable of engaging the culture and politics of the Third World.

The series' first three programmes, though varying in formats, presented the forceful, head-on style, often in the glare of controversy, of investigative journalism that the series became associated with. 'A License to Kill' (tx. 12/9/1985) reported on the racial murders of young Arabs by whites in France; 'Too Many Questions' (tx. 19/9/1985) looked for the first time at the British Immigration service at Heathrow and Dover, and showed how those seeking entry into the UK were treated by immigration officers; 'Till Death Us Do Part - Labour and the Black Vote' (tx. 26/9/1985) alleged that some of Labour deputy Roy Hattersley's Asian supporters in his Birmingham constituency had signed up fake members in an effort to secure his position as parliamentary candidate.

After some four-and-a-half successful years on air, the programme was brought to an unexpected close, reportedly in line with Channel 4's policy of resting 'tried and trusted strands' while they were still successes. The Bandung File ended, in December 1989, with an edition characteristic of the programme's purpose: a profile of Egyptian novelist and poet Naguib Mahfouz, the only Arab ever to win the Novel Prize for literature.

Tise Vahimagi

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Video Clips
1. Suspicions abound (2:41)
2. The ordeal of immigration (3:10)
3. Four million files (1:17)
4. Anger in the Asian community (2:30)
Complete edition: 'Too Many Questions' (26:00)
Channel 4 Documentary