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Intellectual, Sociologist, Cultural Theorist Stuart Hall Dies As John Akomfrah Honors Him On Film

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by Tambay A. Obenson
February 10, 2014 10:40 AM
2 Comments
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Stuart Hall, the Jamaican academic, cultural theorist and sociologist who has lived and worked in the UK since 1951, died today (according to the UK's Guardian) after years battling health problems, including a recent kidney failure, which required a transplant, forcing him to retire from public life.

President of the British Sociological Association from 1995-1997, New Left activist and founding father of Cultural Studies, Hall was 82 years old at the time of his death, and is survived by his wife Catherine, children Becky and Jess, grandchildren, Noah and Ishaan, and by his sister Patricia.

2 years ago, British/Ghanaian filmmaker John Akomfrah was commissioned by Autograph ABP to direct a multi-layered three-screen installation titled The Unfinished Conversation, which featured Stuart Hall’s personal archives, extracted and relocated in an imagined and different time, reflecting the questionable nature of memory itself. 

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

Following that installation, Akomfrah directed the feature documentary, The Stuart Hall Project, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year (2013).

The documentary interweaves 70 years of Stuart Hall’s film, radio and television appearances, and material from his private archive, to document a memorable life and construct a portrait of Britain’s foremost radical intellectual.

And it should be fitting that the task has been undertaken by an influential black British artist, lecturer, writer, filmmaker and intellectual, in John Akomfrah, who one could also described as radical in his own right - as well as a founder of the Black Audio Film Collective, with a 20-year-old body of work that is among the most distinctive in the contemporary British art world.

We have a review of The Stuart Hall Project courtesy of Zeba Blay who covered the festival for S&A last year - read her review HERE.

After seeing the film myself, in short, it's quite a dense piece of cinema, that demands repeat viewings, and should inspire those unfamiliar with Hall to further research the man, his life and significant work.

Akomfrah condensed 8000 hours of footage - yes, 8,000 hours of footage - down to about 95 minutes, which took him over 3 1/2 years, resulting in The Stuart Hall Project feature documentary.

Unfortunately, the film has yet to be formally released here in the USA. It played in UK theaters last fall. But, as with Akomfrah's previous films, and in light of Hall's death, I fully expect it will reach USA shores soon enough, even if it's only on DVD, VOD, or digital download formats. 

In the meantime, watch out the trailer below:

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2 Comments

  • Ava | February 10, 2014 5:44 PMReply

    I know that the Hon. Mr. Hall was ill for quite sometime, still it is a great loss. I had the fortune to be able to read some of his essays/writing while studying in London and it was rigorous, yet highly engaging reading. May his family, friends and colleagues be comforted by the trove of writings he left behind.
    Since I'm not in the U.K., I would love it if this documentary could make it's way here in the near future. Even though I just got finished assailing one of PBS' affiliates for their mangling Black History Month programming, I would still love it if PBS and/or Channel 13 could carry this documentary.

  • Tasha | February 10, 2014 10:47 AMReply

    Its also out on DVD in the UK.

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