Momma Don't Allow
Directed by Karel Reisz & Tony Richardson • Documentary • With Chris Barber, Monty Sunshine, Pat Halcox, Ron Bowden • 1956 • 22 minutes
This lively Free Cinema short captures a night out at the Wood Green Jazz Club, where teenagers jive to trad jazz. Funded by the BFI Experimental Film Fund, it was filmed over the course of nine Saturdays by Karel Reisz, then programmer of the National Film Theatre, and a young BBC television director called Tony Richardson. Both were key protagonists in the development of the Free Cinema documentary movement and then, as feature film directors, the British New Wave. Free Cinema films shared a low-budget, naturalistic aesthetic thanks to handheld cameras and non-synchronised sound – usually without narration – and a focus on ordinary, often working-class subjects. Momma Don’t Allow exudes warmth and is sympathetic to its working-class characters, 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.