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Sundance 2013 Preview: John Akomfrah's 'Stuart Hall Project'

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by Tambay A. Obenson
December 3, 2012 2:27 PM
4 Comments
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A related project we first discovered about 2 months ago, premiered at the Liverpool Biennial 2012, which ran through November 25. 

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.

While the work was presented as more of an art installation, in a three-screen format, the director did say that he was developing a traditional single-screen version that he hoped woul be screened in mainstream cinemas and broadcast on TV sometime in 2013.

And now, scheduled to make its World Premiere at the Sundance Film Festival next month is Akomfrah's The Stuart Hall Project, which is in effect that single-screen mainstream version he talked about a couple of months ago, and is described as follows:

Antinuclear campaigner, New Left activist and founding father of Cultural Studies, this 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.

So essentially, a doc-bio-pic on Hall.

No media to look at yet, unfortunately. The image above is of Stuart Hall.

I did come across one review on the Telegraph's website by Mark Hudson who really loved the Liverpool Biennial version of 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.

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.

Stay tuned for a first look when we have one.

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4 Comments

  • Shakila Taranum Maan | January 16, 2013 11:23 AMReply

    Superb! Akomfrah/Hall, what a combination! Can't wait to see this in cinema's in the UK. Welll done to Autograph for creating the project and putting the two together. Finally, John Akomfrah! Zindabad!!!

  • Blackman | December 6, 2012 3:57 AMReply

    WILL THis be as informative as his scholarly youtube videos?

  • Jerome | December 4, 2012 9:36 AMReply

    FINALLY!! Bloody, hell that took a long time.

  • Ava | December 3, 2012 5:35 PMReply

    I was reading about this last week and I can honestly say I am EXCITED!! Thank you Mr. Akomfrah. I spent many a day, reading and deconstructing his incredibly dense and information rich essays-- ahh, the good ole' days.
    Something to truly look forward to.

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