Class Nine: The Stuart Hall Project (John Akomfrah, 2013, UK)

More by Akomfrah and the Black Audio Film Collective

As I said in class, it was a hard choice to make between screening The Stuart Hall Project and Handsworth Songs (Black Audio Film Collective, 1986, UK). If you have any interest in Britain in the 1980s, the political reaction to Thatcher and racism, or the early work of the BAFC, take the time to watch Handsworth Songs. In many ways it draws on the kind of media analysis we see Hall doing in the later film when he compares newspaper accounts of muggings, but it goes far beyond this as well. The full film is available at UBUweb here.

If you want to learn more about the radical innovations and political interventions of the Black Audio Film Collective, The Ghost of Songs: The Film Art of the Black Audio Film Collective, edited by Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar, is absolutely essential. ILL it.

More recently Akomfrah directed another archive film, The March (2013), which is about the Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington. It is available via Kanopy.

Sadly, The Stuart Hall Project does not currently seem to be available in full online. There are clips on YouTube and reviews and articles about both it and the installation, The Unfinished Conversation, are fairly plentiful. I particularly recommend this interview Akomfrah did with Sight & Sound as well as this review of the film by Ashley Clark.

Of the interviews that Akomfrah did around the release of The Stuart Hall Project, the one above by Freize is perhaps my favorite. But I also recommend this 2015 Tate interview that he did for a different project because in it he discusses the challenges of directing for the cinema versus creating a film and video installation in a gallery.

On Stuart Hall

If you are interesting in thinking about the relationship between the essay film and biography and autobiography, do what you can to get your hands on Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands, the memoir Hall wrote/compiled in collaboration with his colleague Bill Schwarz. This memoir is accompanied by Duke promises will be several volumes of Hall’s collected works. The first two, Cultural Studies 1983 and Selected Political Writings, are out now. Just available, and high up on my to-read list, is David Scott’s Stuart Hall’s Voice, which promises to be a kind of intellectual biography organized around the idea and actuality of voice.

To get a sense of the depth and extent of Hall’s writing, take a look at this bibliography assembled by Verso. It includes the article on photography I mentioned, “Reconstruction Work,” which is available in The Everyday Life Reader, edited by Ben Highmore. He addresses similar issues in the interview below.

On Isaac Julien

Julien is a Black British filmmaker and artist whose work we could have equally screened as part of this class. I highly recommend his experimental essay film on Frantz Fanon, which Hall appears in and is available on Kanopy. The UW Library has a copy of Julien’s film Looking For Langston (1989), which Hall partially narrates, and which is about the great American poet Langston Hughes. Finally, Julien wrote a moving tribute to Hall in Sight & Sound after Hall’s death in 2014.

Stuart Hall on YouTube

There are a number of archival clips of Hall on YouTube, but if you want the full-on Open University experience, check out this broadcast on Children’s programming, which really does show how adeptly Hall could analyze any cultural form.





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