Empire State of Mind

Rating 8.3
Streamer All4
Seasons 1
Episodes 2 x 60 mins

This is the story that resides in the cracks of Britain’s gleaming frontage, hidden between the lines of a traditional history – the story of the British Empire and its colonial consequences. 

Sathnam Sanghera travels across the UK, mapping out the history of British imperialism, shining a light on a dirty secret of residual colonial thought, unlocking raw, insider emotion with the crossing of each county. It’s a privilege to walk alongside Sanghera, but an uncomfortable one at that. 

+  Steve McQueen’s Uprising tells another side of the colonial story. Read our review here 

Sanghera, who comes from an immigrant background, meets people from across the political spectrum. However, “even tackling such difficult subject matter”, writes The Guardian’s Chitra Ramaswamy, “Sanghera is an affable guide.” Ramaswamy goes on to call the documentary a “brave, personal and damning take on the racist legacy Britain has just started to reckon with”, admitting that as “a fellow fortysomething child of Indian immigrants…within moments, I am crying on to my laptop.”

The Telegraph calls the documentary “a thoughtful take on a very thorny topic…both personal and political”. And it is this blending of the personal with the political which makes the film an accessible watch for all. No matter your political orientation, Sanghera deals in the bloody currency of history, providing cold, hard facts and irrefutable personal experience.

Fiona Sturges, writer for The Financial Times, points to how Sanghera “notes that many Britons have a wilful amnesia about our ancestors’ conduct in colonial outposts, instead clinging to outdated ideas of British exceptionalism”. This documentary therefore works hard to undo this harmful amnesia, shaking its viewers into a state of accountability.

+ Channel 4 know how to make a good social documentary. For another one, click here 

It’s a tough but telling watch, the first step on the rickety road to recovery from Britain’s turbulent past. As viewers, we can only be thankful that Sanghera permits us to join him on this journey. 

First shown November 2021. 

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