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Man From The Sun, A (1956)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Man From The Sun, A (1956)
Written byJohn Elliot
Production CompanyBBC
Produced byJohn Elliot

Cast: Errol John (Cleve); Cy Grant (Alvin); Colin Douglas (Cale); Sarah Morgan (Maggie); Keefe West (Winston); Joseph Brent (Earl Cameron)

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A mixed party of West Indian settlers arrives in London, where they encounter prejudice from the white population and integrate themselves into the existing West Indian community.

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A Man From The Sun (BBC, tx. 8/11/1956) is an exploration of the difficulties faced by West Indians new to Britain. Racism in the workplace was overt and often physical. Yet as a documentary drama purporting to portray the harsh realities of life for the first Caribbean settlers in this country, it pulls many punches. There are no messages here below hotel signs proclaiming 'no blacks', or mention of attacks on black people in the streets. This is curious considering the Notting Hill riots were a matter of a couple of years away. Unscrupulous landlords and dubious working practices were all daily realities for black people of that generation, and to an extent beyond.

In general A Man From The Sun conveys its message in the style of an instructional manual, and this type of approach makes for few moments of real dramatic tension, and the bland even pace denies the actors the latitude within which to truly express themselves. Earl Cameron, as community leader Joseph Brent, is particularly underused. Errol John, as Cleve, however, gives a good central performance and is able to convey the disillusionment of those who were promised much when invited to come to this country, but in reality encountered great hardship. Cameron's community leader is a counter to this and, as in much of his work, presents the voice of reason and fortitude in the face of adversity.

Although not particularly provocative or representative, A Man From The Sun is a fascinating example of the way in which 'black' television drama has developed. Modern drama such as Babyfather (BBC, 2001-) and to an extent White Teeth (Channel 4, 2002) seems more preoccupied with personal relationships and how they reflect multicultural Britain, rather than prescribing a community-wide approach to individual problems. The pursuit of social justice seems to have given way to the desire for personal fulfillment at virtually any expense. In this respect, perhaps A Man From The Sun still has a great deal to say.

Carl Daniels

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Video Clips
1. New arrivals (4:14)
2. Advice for Cleve (3:49)
Complete film (58:20)
Cameron, Earl (1917- )
John, Errol (1924-1988)