Until the 1980s Black British and Asian British culture was significantly under-represented in mainstream British cinema, as they were in many areas of British life. Pioneers such as Horace Ové had been working in 1970s (Pressure, 1975, funded by the British Film Institute), but the 1980s saw a wave of new talent, with films like Babylon (1980), Burning an Illusion (1981), Majdhar (1985) and Ping Pong (1986 - one of the first films about Britain's Chinese community). Many of these films were assisted by the newly formed Channel 4, which had an official remit to provide for "minority audiences." Commercial success was first achieved with My Beautiful Laundrette (1985). Dealing with racial and gay issues, it started the career of its writer Hanif Kureishi. Mainstream British cinema also reflected a change in attitudes, with Heat and Dust (1982), Gandhi (1982) and Cry Freedom (1987), although these did not directly address the experiences of minorities in Britain.
The turn of the century saw a more commercial Asian British cinema develop, starting with East is East (1999) and continuing with Bend It Like Beckham (2002). Other notable British Asian films from this period include My Son the Fanatic (1997), Ae Fond Kiss... (2004), Mischief Night (2006), Yasmin (2004) and Four Lions (2010). Some argue it has brought more flexible attitudes towards casting Black and Asian British actors, with Robbie Gee and Naomie Harris take leading roles in Underworld and 28 Days Later respectively. The year 2005 saw the emergence of The British Urban Film Festival, a timely addition to the film festival calendar which recognised the influence of Kidulthood on UK audiences and which consequently began to showcase a growing profile of films in a genre which previously was not otherwise regularly seen in the capital’s cinemas. Then in 2005 Kidulthood, a film centring on inner-city London youth had a limited release. This was successfully followed up with a sequel Adulthood (2008) that was written and directed by actor Noel Clarke. Several other films dealing with inner city issues and Black Britons were released in the 2000s such as Bullet Boy (2004), Life and Lyrics (2006) and Rollin' With the Nines (2009).
On 24 September 2008, Film London, the capital’s film and media agency launched The New Black, a two year funding and training programme that will expand opportunities for theatrical exhibition of Black film in London. At the event Adrian Wootton, Film London’s Chief Executive, Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney & Stoke Newington and Kanya King MBE, founder of MOBO revealed details of the package. Fifteen of the UK’s leaders of black film exhibition came together from Wales, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Kent, Essex, and the capital to the Film London offices to attend The New Black Training Programme. This led to the forming of The New Black: UK Black Film Distribution & Exhibition Network in Spring 2009.