First Look At John Akomfrah's 'Unfinished Conversation' + Review + Plans For Commercial Release

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by Tambay A. Obenson
October 16, 2012 11:11 AM
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A scene from John Akomfrah’s 'The Unfinished Conversation’, a film about the academic Stuart Hall

As reported about a month ago, British/Ghanaian filmmaker John Akomfrah was commissioned by Autograph ABP to direct a new film titled The Unfinished Conversation.

Autograph ABP is a charity that works internationally to educate the public in photography, by addressing issues of cultural identity and human rights. 

Here's how they describe The Unfinished Conversation:

The film examines the nature of the visual as triggered across the individual’s memory landscape, with particular reference to identity and race. In it, academic Stuart Hall’s memories and personal archives are extracted and relocated in an imagined and different time, reflecting the questionable nature of memory itself. This multi-layered three-screen installation investigates the theory that identity is not an essence or being but instead a becoming, where individual subjectivities are formed in both real and fictive spaces.

Stuart Hall is a Jamaican cultural theorist and sociologist who has lived and worked in the UK since 1951. He was President of the British Sociological Association from 1995-1997.

The completed work has premiered at the Liverpool Biennial 2012, which runs through November 25. 

And this morning, I came across one review on the Telegraph's website by Mark Hudson who really loved the work, calling it a beautiful and moving film about Stuart Hall.

Here's s snip:

Akomfrah’s film stands out as a work of substance that says important things about what Britain has become over the last half century. If Hall isn’t quite a household name, much less an ackowledged national treasure, this film will convince you he should be both. Unfolding simultaneously over three screens, it evokes the colonial Jamaica in which he grew up and the cold, foggy Britain to which he came as a student to Oxford in 1951. But what really illuminates the experience is Hall’s keen intelligence and patent decency, as he expounds in his gently musical voice on his discovery of personal and ethnic identity. Hall, the darkest-skinned member of an aspiring middle-class Jamaican family of mixed Portuguese-Jewish, African and English descent, felt an outsider even in his own home as a child, and no less alienated as a student at Oxford among the British upper classes. It was only when, in 1968, he turned a mental corner and decided to define himself as black, as opposed to merely West Indian, that Hall achieved a degree of equanimity.

You can read Hudson' full review HERE.

And more good news... while Akomfrah's film is currently being presented as more of an installation, in this three-screen format Hudson mentions in his review, the director says that he's developing a traditional single-screen version that he hopes will be screened in mainstream cinemas and broadcast on TV sometime in 2013. Something to look forward to...

The Biennial presents work by 242 artists in 27 locations. The festival takes place in galleries, museums and other sites, and includes a dynamic program of talks, events, screenings and other activities.

The Unfinished Conversation is funded by Grants For ArtsArts Council England and supported by the BluecoatNew Art ExchangeNottingham and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American ResearchHarvard University, Royal College Inspire Programme and Akomfrah's own Smoking Dogs Films Production company.

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1 Comment

  • NinaG | October 24, 2012 5:59 AMReply

    Akomfrah's projects always sound intriguing... I like the way he thinks about/discusses migration

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