Film Screening + Talk

John Akomfrah Film Program

Online
Saturday, July 18 – Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Africa Institute (Sharjah, UAE), in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation (Sharjah, UAE) and the Royal College of Art (London, UK) are organizing a screening program focusing on three films by the acclaimed Ghanaian-British filmmaker John Akomfrah. The screenings will conclude with a webinar featuring the filmmaker.

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The program will include three of Akomfrah’s films; Handsworth Songs (1986), Martin Luther King and the March on Washington (2013) and The Stuart Hall Project (2013). The films will be made available for audiences as free livestream for four days via The Africa Institute website starting Saturday, July 18, 2020. The webinar, which is scheduled for Tuesday, July 21, 2020 at 7 PM (GST), will host director John Akomfrah in a conversation moderated by Hoor Al-Qasimi, President, Sharjah Art Foundation, with Adrian Lahoud, Dean of the School of Architecture, Royal College of Art, London, UK, and Gilane Tawadros, Chief Executive, DACS.

This program of screening is driven by the educational mission of the collaborating institutions as a contribution to the understanding, through film and art, of the recent protest movement across the globe against anti-black racism. It also explores the African and Black intellectual traditions through the contributions of specific figures to critical theory and the humanities, such as the American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, and the Black British intellectual Stuart Hall, as in the case of John Akomfrah’s selected films.


Films
(Available for free streaming from Saturday, July 18 – Tuesday, July 21)

1. Handsworth Songs



Synopsis
A film essay on race and civil disorder in 1980s Britain and the inner city riots of 1985, Handsworth Songs takes as its point of departure the civil disturbances of September and October 1985 in the Birmingham district of Handsworth and in the urban centres of London. Running throughout the film is the idea that the riots were the outcome of a protracted suppression by British society of black presence. The film portrays civil disorder as an opening onto a secret history of dissatisfaction that is connected to the national drama of industrial decline.

The ‘Songs’ of the title do not reference musicality but instead invoke the idea of documentary as a poetic montage of associations familiar from the British documentary cinema of John Grierson and Humphrey Jennings.

Handsworth Songs won Britain’s most prestigious award for Documentaries the British Film Institute Grierson Award Best Documentary in 1986.

Director: John Akomfrah
United Kingdom
59 minutes
1986
English with Arabic subtitles

2. Martin Luther King and the March on Washington



Synopsis

The BAFTA Nominated ‘Martin Luther King and The March on Washington’ is the titanic documentary commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – one of the largest civil protests in American history. Largely remembered for Martin Luther Jrs., iconic “I Have A Dream” speech, the March was a watershed moment in the American Civil Rights Movement and helped to usher in a sea change in public opinion on race and the Civil Rights Act 1964.

Including interviews from key members of organizational groups, civil rights activists and attendees on the day, such as Senator John Lewis, Clarence B. Jones, Joan Baez, Andrew Young, and many more, ‘The March’ also features stunning, newly unearthed archival footage.

‘The March’ is the emotive story of discrimination, defiance and victory, told by the people who made it happen and whose lives it changed forever.

Director: John Akomfrah
United Kingdom
60 minutes
2013
English with Arabic subtitles

3. The Stuart Hall Project



Synopsis

‘The Stuart Hall Project’ is the intimate and engaging portrait of Stuart Hall, the Jamaican born pubic intellectual and co-founder of the New Left Review, whose work in cultural studies profoundly influenced the political landscape and academic landscape. A life lived through the twentieth century’s defining political moments.

Weaving between the musical archeology of Miles Davis and the political narratives of the twentieth century, director John Akomfrah, carefully constructs archival sequences of rare, forgotten and long since seen historical material.

A ground breaking film that pioneers a new archival and sonic approach to forgotten histories, forgotten ideas and the untold stories of the politics of change.

Director: John Akomfrah
United Kingdom
95 minutes
2013
English with Arabic subtitles

John Akomfrah
Akomfrah (born 1957) lives and works in London.

John Akomfrah is a widely respected artist and filmmaker, whose works are characterised by their investigations into memory, postcolonialism, temporality and aesthetics and often explores the experiences of migrant diasporas globally. Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, which started in London in 1982 alongside the artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, who he still collaborates with today. Their first film, Handsworth Songs (1986) explored the events surrounding the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London through a combination of archive footage, still photos and newsreel. The film won several international prizes and established a multi-layered visual style that has become a recognisable motif of Akomfrah’s practice. Other works include the three-screen installation The Unfinished Conversation (2012), a moving portrait of the cultural theorist Stuart Hall’s life and work; Peripeteia (2012), an imagined drama visualising the lives of individuals included in two 16th century portraits by Albrecht Dürer and Mnemosyne (2010) which exposes the hardship experienced by migrants in the UK.


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