Henriques, Julian 1955(?)–

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Julian Henriques 1955(?)


Background in Psychology

Films Depicted AngloCaribbean Culture

Dance Hall Showdown

Selected filmography


Julian Henriques made his featurefilm directorial debut with the 1998 musical, Babymother. Cowritten with Vivienne Howard, Babymother depicts Londons vibrant West Indian nightclub culture. Its performers long to move from the club scene into a legitimate recording career, an ambition their more conservative parents disdain. The films title refers to this younger generation of AngloCaribbeans, who become parents themselves when barely out of their teens. Henriquess work was released in North American theaters in the spring of 2000. This film is wired directly into the motor of assertive energy which is powering socalled multicultural Britain, to whose rhythm London is increasingly swinging, wrote Stuart Hall in Sight and Sound.

Background in Psychology

Henriques was born in Yorkshire, England, and studied psychology at Bristol University. His career has included stints as a television researcher, policy researcher, lecturer, and journalist. In the 1970s he became a cofounder of Ideology and Consciousness (later shortened to I and C), a journal that published work on new theories in modern psychology. Henriques remained a member of its editorial staff from 1974 to 1977. His own academic writings have appeared in his book Changing the Subject: Psychology, Social Regulation and Control and he has also contributioned to other academic works including Fatherhood and Journey to Dis Place in Being West Indian. He has taught at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, and as a lecturer in script and prosewriting at Goldsmiths College of the University of London.

Henriques began making short films for Britains Channel Four Television in the 1980s. He produced On Duty in 1984, and directed Exit No Exit in 1988. We the Ragamuffin, produced in 1992, was his first narrative short film. The work depicted the North Peckham housing projects outside of London, home to many Britons of West Indian heritage. When the apartment blocks first went up in the 1970s, they won international architectural acclaim for their network of walkways and corridors. North Peckham, however, failed to stand even a brief test of time, and rapidly deteriorated into a crumbling, crimeridden maze. Henriquess film examines the Ragamuffin urban subculture in the area, with its distinct clothing style and ties to Rastafarian ideology.

At a Glance

B orn ca. 1955, in Yorkshire, England. Education: Studied psychology at Bristol University.

Career: Television researcher, policy researcher, lecturer, and journalist; cofounder of the journal Ideology and Consciousness, 1974, and member of editorial collective until 1977; author of Changing the Subject: Psychology, Social Regulation and Control; contributing author to Fatherhood and Journey to Dis Place in Being West Indian; taught at University of West Indies; Goldsmiths College, University of London, lecturer in script and prosewriting, 1980s; filmmaker since mid1980s, with documentary shorts and television films for Channel Four Television, the British Broadcasting Service (BBC), and Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), films include Exit No Exit, States of Exile, Derek Wlcott: Poet of the Island, Jungle Mix, The Sex Warriors & the Samuri, The Green Man, and We the Ragamuffin; directorial featurefilm debut with Babymother, 1998.

Address; Office Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths College, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW, England.

Other films that Henriques has madeeither for the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) or Germanys Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) networkinclude States of Exile, Derek Walcott: Poet of the Island, Jungle Mix, The Sex Warrior & the Samurai, and The Green Man.

Films Depicted AngloCaribbean Culture

Babymother, financed by Britains Channel Four network and by British lottery receipts, was filmed with an allblack cast and set in north Londons Harlesden neighborhood. The area is home to large numbers of firstand secondgeneration Jamaicans, and boasts a thriving nightclub scene, out of which has emerged the United Kingdoms dance hall genre, which is an offshoot of reggae. Cineaste writer Rachel MoseleyWood explained, The primacy accorded the dance hall is a declaration about the ongoing transformation and redefinition of a culturally monolithic England into a diverse multicultural society.

Working with Howard on the script, Henriques hoped to honestly depict the struggles of women performers in this subculture. As he told Black Filmmakers Menelik Shabazz, he had met some of these singers, and quickly grasped what they had to deal with in terms of the music, and their responsibilities, and their relationships with their family and relationship within the music industry and the people who control it. Babymothers story follows Anita, played by Anjela Lauren Smith, who forms her own twowoman crew to back her in club performances. She enjoys a stellar rise in the clubs, but faces personal challenges to further success: she is a teen mother with two youngsters, and lives with her mother and older sister Rose (played by Suzette Llewellyn), who both disapprove of her musical ambitions.

The father of Anitas children is also a singer, Byron (played by Wil Johnson), and the pair have had a somewhat tempestuous relationship. Because of his own singing career, Byron has not been an involved parent, but experiences a change of heart while watching Anitas rise. He suggests that they move in together, but Anita refuses to jettison her own career plans. In Babymothers finale, both participate in a local talent contest and battle it out onstage.

Dance Hall Showdown

One of the crucial plot elements in Henriquess film comes when Anitas mother dies, and she learns that she was really her grandmotherthat her sister Rose was a teen babymother as well. The movie earned positive reviews both in Britain and the United States. Independent Sunday writer Matthew Sweet faulted it for its portrayal of single parenthood, writing that the children seemed incidental in the film, but granted that Henriques has used his film to achieve an interesting synthesis of genres, combining grimy social realism with a distinctly Jamaican strain of melodrama. Writing in Cineaste, MoseleyWood pointed out that while the films ensemble characters are the children and grandchildren of West Indian immigrants to England from the postWorld War II era and consider themselves British and belonging to Britain, it is a setting totally redefined using Jamaican popular culture.

Henriques was commended for using the dance hall culture as a starting point of reference to explore his themes of assimilation and multiculturalism. New York Times film critic Stephen Holden found that the music was a primary focus in Babymother, which resulted in a candycolored, beatdriven showbusiness fantasy. He also noted that the script seemed to have the bare minimum of plot, which surrenders giddily to song, dance and merriment. Since its idiom is the percolating postreggae style known as Jamaican dancehall, the movies good mood isnt simply upbeat, its voluptuously ecstatic. An Independent critic, Ryan Gilbey, called Babymother vibrant and delightful, and a film that buzzes with vitality and colour. Bob Campbell, writing in the New Jersey StarLedger, also liked Henriquess cheery urban fable. Its grittypretty strengths are summed up in rude malefemale challenge songs that crackle with loving hostility.

In the end, wrote Hall in Sight and Sound, Babymother was noteworthy in one aspect: New British cinema has not so far produced a successful film of any quality based on the music industry.... This is where black British youth culturestylish, selfconfident, aspirational, entrepreneurial and replete with attitudehas been making its indelible mark on British popular culture, transforming street fashion, dance and sexualityaspublicspectacle in its wake.

Selected filmography


Exit No Exit, Channel Four, 1988.

States of Exile, British Broadcasting Company.

The Green Man, British Broadcasting Company.

We the Ragamuffin, Channel Four, 1992.

Babymother, Channel Four, 1998.


Changing the Subject: Psychology, Social Regulation and Control, Methuen, 1984.


Contributor to academic works, including Fatherhood, Virago, 1992; and Journey to Dis Place in Being West Indian (in press), UWI Press.



Black Filmmaker, February/March 1998.

Independent (London), September 10, 1998, p. 11; September 17, 1998, p. 25.

Independent Sunday (London), September 13, 1998, p. 4.

New York Times, March 17, 2000.

Observer (London), September 13, 1998, p. 8.

Sight and Sound, September 1998, p. 24, p. 38.

StarLedger (Newark, NJ), March 17, 2000, p. 39.


Black Filmmaker Magazine, http://www.blackfilmmakermag.com/ (September 5, 2002).

Goldsmiths College Dept. of Media & Communications, http://www.goldsmiths.ac.uk/departments/media-communications/ (September 5, 2002).

Carol Brennan

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