A Film by John Akomfrah
UK 99 minutes
From the award winning documentarian John Akomfrah comes The Stuart Hall Project, 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. Visionary director John Akomfrah weaves between the musical archaeology of Miles Davis, the political narratives of the new post-war Left and the life and works of key architect, the cultural theorist Stuart Hall—one of the New Left’s most prominent and influential intellectuals. Akomfrah carefully constructs archival sequences of rare forgotten and long since seen historical material together with Hall’s extensive broadcasts and personal archives, taking the audience on a kaleidoscopic journey through the ideas and personal story of Stuart Hall. Imagined through a Miles Davis and an original sonic sound track, Akomfrah creates a vivid cartography of the twentieth century’s defining political moments making a powerful portrait of Hall.
“John Akomfrah’s film is a tribute to the critic and New Left Review founder Stuart Hall – a montage of existing documentary footage and Hall’s own words and thoughts on film. It has an idealism and high seriousness that people might not immediately associate with the subject Hall pioneered: cultural studies. This is not about, say, postmodern readings of Lady Gaga, but a deeply considered project that reconsiders culture and identity for those excluded from the circles of power through race, gender and class. His is the progressive tradition of Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams, unfashionable since Margaret Thatcher dismantled the welfarist consensus. Akomfrah finds a new and quietly moving significance in Hall’s own life story: a man who came from Jamaica – which Hall elegantly calls the “home of hybridity” – and found himself not really at home there, nor in the postwar UK in which he began a brilliant academic career at Oxford. Akomfrah sees Hall as a calm figure who insists on the fundamental topic of equality – yet without getting angry at the surface flashpoints of history. I wondered sometimes at Hall’s view on racial identity: it could well be, as he says, that race is an ideological construct – but does that help victims of racism? Anyway, an absorbing account.” Peter Brahe Guardian, September 5, 2013