Clarkson & Tamango

Event Details
Date: , 2006
Venue: The Cube, BS2 8JD
Price: £3/4
With: Gordon Young
Series: Bristol Radical History Week 2006
Page Details
Section: Events
Subjects: Radical Bristol, Slavery & Resistance
Tags: , ,
Posted: Modified:


This film tells the story of an unsung hero in the fight to abolish slave trading and is set in Bristol in 1787. Although Wilberforce has won public acclaim for finally outlawing the trade, it was Thomas Clarkson who provided him with much of the data that he used to back up the cause. The film is one of contrast: between the pious young divinity student, straight out of University, and the bawdy taverns and rough slave port where he conducted his fact-finding. Clarkson ‘grows up’ as the film develops: he acquires street wisdom and finally realises the most effective way to win the crusade.

2006, 40 mins.
Director : Graham Egarr and Gordon Young
Produced : The Bristol Film and Video Society


Based on a novel by Prosper Mérimée it is the story of a revolt on a slave ship bound for Cuba. John Reinker, the ships captain (played by Jürgens the megalomaniac submarine thief in The Spy Who Loved Me), takes a “mixed race” mistress called Aiché (played by Dandridge). However, Aiché is also the object of affection of Tamango (played by Cressan), the leader of the slave revolt. As the revolt progresses Aiché finds herself in the middle. Will she choose self-advancement, cashing in on the status afforded to her as the mistress of a white slave trader? Or will she side with her fellow captives?

Tamango is a film that is intriguing for several reasons. The interracial love theme caused the film to be banned in some French colonies and in America no distributor would touch it, consequently it failed and has languished in obscurity ever since. It is not just the content of the film that proved controversial, the director John Berry had been black listed for the 1950 film The Hollywood Ten. This 15 minute long documentary was about the “Hollywood Ten”, a group of writers and directors who where themselves blacklisted and sacked for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Because of Berry’s past Tamango was made “in exile” with French and Italian money.

Lastly the leading lady deserved a mention. Dorothy Dandridge was not only the first black actress to play a romantic lead alongside a white leading man in a mainstream Hollywood film (Island In The Sun) but also the first African-American to grace the cover of Life Magazine in 1954. More groundbreaking followed in 1955 when she became the first African-American to receive a best actress Oscar nomination the film Carmen Jones (she lost out to Grace Kelly). Coincidently she was portrayed by Halle Berry in the 1999 TV film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Berry went on to be the first Afro-American actress to win a Best Actress Oscar in 2002. In 1965 an overdose of antidepressant brought a tragically early end to Dandridge’s life; she was 42.

1958, 98 mins.
Starring : Dorothy Dandridge, Curd Jürgens, Alex Cressan
Director : John Berry

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