Frankie Dymon Jr.
Death May Be Your Santa Claus (1969)
Synopsis: A black student and black power advocate, sent down for failing his exams and Marxist lectures, has a fantasy affair with a white girl on the telephone.....
Frankie Dymon's Death May be Your Santa Claus (1969), arguably Britain's first and only example of a 'black power' movie, in which themes of sexual and political identity encircle one another in the context of a hip and hippy London of the late 1960s, suspended between the cinematic radicalisms of films such as Roeg's Performance, Godard's Sympathy for the Devil in which Dymon played a leading role, or Boorman's Leo the Last.
Thought lost until quite recently, this inscrutably-titled film is described as a 'pop fantasy' and offers an intriguing look at 60s sex and politics from a black British perspective.
The music was provided by UK psych/prog band "Second Hand".
It was the band's second (and last) album, and original copies change hands for high prices today.
Article from contemporary British film magazine Cinema X (Vol 1, No 11), 1969:
At first, in a rare moment of self-doubt, Frankie Dymon Jr didn't think he could write a film, let alone "get the bread together and make it." The moment of uncertainty was indeed a rare one for the actor, who doesn't mind his ego showing. And it didn't last long. With the pictures in his mind he just sat and wrote. "It poured out of me," he said. "Easier than I thought. Films are, basically, just pictures. Nothing new to Africans. We tell all stories in pictures."
The result - a free-form series of contemporary views, black and white, jump-cut around an idyllic dream-like love affair - soon convinced various people he knew with money and artistry. It took just six months from the night he had first vaguely talked of wanting "one day to just go out and shoot film" to the day he had completed the thing. He labelled his style Afro-Saxon.
More influenced by Jean-Luc Godard than he would admit, Dymon’s film is a unique attempt to "engulf the quite horrific things that go on around us," mixing bloody reality (a castration sequence in the sun-splashed green of a London park) with the idyll of the black man and the white girl. Shot on a rapid ten-day schedule, the film is bitter and sweet, fervid and fey, hot and cold, bloody and beautiful. All things to all men: black and white. Notable is its cast of complete newcomers, headed by a trio of models who will surely never have to stand still for a living again.
Ex-photographer, ex-model Ken Gajadhar is the indolent, irresponsible, sensual black centrepoint, Raymond Parker. South African Donnah Dolce is the white girl, not yet sure if she's to be classed as 'ex-model', unnamed, unreal, a dream walking and making love, and - because of her bed scene with a coloured man - likely to be banned from returning to Africa (as in the case of another ex-Johannesburg woman whom she knows slightly the "Joanna" girl, Genevieve Waite).
Completing the trio is Merdele Jordine, born in Westmoreland, Jamaica, but living in Britain for 18 years, and a rave success on the model scene due to her fantastic face and figure. Continually intercut with astonishing views of the "the general revolutionary mood of the people" - featuring a brash and near naked pop group named Second Hand, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, and even a Pope-figure contemplative upon his toilet - the running narrative concerns Raymond Parker, his reality and his fantasies.
Although sent down from university for failing political science exams - or more likely because of it - he is in demand as a lecturer on Marxism. "The power that stands on privilege - and goes with women, pot, champagne and bridge - broke. And democracy regained her reign, which also goes with women, pot, and screwing. Therefore, if you want things to stay as they are, things will have to change - won't they? You see, the French Revolution, begun in 1789, did not end in 1830, but gained true victory in May 1968..."
Signing autographs after a lecture like this one, Raymond meets a beautiful black girl. It was a brief meeting, apparently unimportant. Next day he receives an unsigned message asking him to phone a certain number at 7pm. Intrigued, in his own lazy manner, he does so. A hand picks up the receiver in a kiosk, but nothing is heard apart from the eventual disconnected buzz, as Raymond sees (or does he?) a beautiful white girl glide into his bedroom. In the same absolute silence, she sheds her ice-blue cape, and lies down on his bed, beautiful and naked.
The following silence is interrupted by their own ecstasy only as the couple make love. Another day, and another card arrives, signed this time: Georgina Clark. Telephoning the number once more, Raymond arranges a meeting in the park, and there she is again, the white goddess of love. He takes her to his car. But when he drives off we see he is alone. Now another day, and a letter with a photograph: the girl of his dreams. The telephone rings and she tells him where to meet her. But the street kiosk is occupied - by Georgina, the black girl. When she finishes her call and leaves, Raymond moves in, dials that number yet again, and suddenly sees it is the number of the kiosk. As he runs down the road after the black girl, the white goddess comes, almost floating, towards him, and passes through him and Georgina. All three drift off the screen in opposite directions, absorbed in their own dream worlds.
Flashing through and cutting right across this highly effective triple love-fantasia is director Dymon's taut look at "raw and unexposed parts of convention." This is best seen in his fiction-cum-fact sequence at Hyde Park's famous Speakers' Corner, where black actor Paul Dean portrays a (remarkably nervous) Malcolm X-like orator delivering a fiery epistle on black and white relations.
This then, is Britain's first Afro-Saxon film.