Momma Don't Allow (1956)

This lively Free Cinema short captures a night out at the Wood Green Jazz Club, where teenagers jive to trad jazz.

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Film details


Momma Don’t Allow was one of the first trio of films to appear under the banner of the Free Cinema documentary movement, which launched with a programme at London’s National Film Theatre in February 1956. The films shared a low-budget aesthetic thanks to cheap, handheld 16mm cameras and non-synchronised sound – without narration – and a focus on ordinary, often working-class subjects. The ‘movement’ that followed lasted until the sixth Free Cinema programme in 1959.

Originally entitled Jazz, the film charted a Saturday evening in a North London jazz club, and was completed with a grant from the BFI Experimental Film Fund. The film exudes warmth and is sympathetic to its working-class subjects, contrasting the relaxed, confident working-class ‘Teddy Boys’ and their girlfriends with the more awkward ‘toffs’, whose arrival threatens to change the mood of the evening.

Co-directors Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz would both ultimately move into feature films, initially associated with what became known as the British new wave. Before that, Reisz was employed briefly as film officer for car manufacturer Ford, which funded Lindsay Anderson’s Every Day Except Christmas (1957) and Reisz’s own We Are the Lambeth Boys (1959).

Another Free Cinema film, Nice Time (1957) takes a different look at London’s night life, while Reisz’s later We Are the Lambeth Boys (1959) also explores late-50s youth culture.

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