Continuous looped screenings.
A film about revolution, politics, and culture, this portrait of the influential Jamaican-born intellectual Stuart Hall (1932 – 2014) reflects on his work as a founding figure of the new Left and architect of the field of cultural studies.
Film director and artist John Akomfrah combines extensive archival imagery, culled from over 100 hours of Hall’s wide-ranging media appearances, with footage of the social and political upheavals through which he lived. The key domestic and international historical events featured (including West Indian migration to the UK, the Suez Crisis, the Hungarian Uprising, the birth of youth counterculture, the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War) are addressed in broadly chronological fashion, set against Hall’s mixed experiences of ‘Britishness’ as a post-war immigrant.
The film uses the melancholy-suffused music of Miles Davis as its soundtrack (‘When I was 18 or 19,’ says Hall early in the film, ‘Miles Davis put his finger on my soul’). Davis’s music, save for an early blast of 1968’s ‘Filles de Kilimanjaro’, is also structured in chronological order, a neat by-product of which is to map the trumpeter’s development as a musician in step with international events.
Akomfrah is celebrated for his innovative and deeply intuitive use of archival montage to investigate memory, post-colonialism, temporality and aesthetics, often involving research into untold stories, lost and hidden histories. In this film the diverse stream of Hall’s media appearances and voiceovers plays against the chronological structure, opening up a space for wider reflection rather than the limiting confines of contemporaneous commentary.
Akomfrah’s celebrated three-screen gallery work The Unfinished Conversation, first shown at the Liverpool Biennial in 2012 and at Tate Britain in 2013, and now part of the National Collection is a prequel to this film, released while Akomfrah was still working on The Stuart Hall Project.