The final Sundance alumni director in this year’s World Cinema Documentary Competition: From the UK, John Akomfrah’s THE STUART HALL PROJECT, a profile of the British cultural theorist in jazz and images.
Sundance Program Description:
A person’s culture is something that is often described as fixed or defined and rooted in a particular region, nation, or state. Stuart Hall, one of the most preeminent intellectuals on the Left in Britain, updates this definition as he eloquently theorizes that cultural identity is fluid—always morphing and stretching toward possibility but also constantly experiencing nostalgia for a past that can never be revisited.
Filmmaker John Akomfrah uses the rich and complex mood created by Miles Davis’s trumpet to root a masterful tapestry of newly filmed material, archival imagery, excerpts from television programs, home movies, and family photographs to create this lyrical and emotionally powerful portrait of the life and philosophy of this influential theorist. Like a fine scotch, THE STUART HALL PROJECT is smooth, complicated, and euphorically pleasing. It taps into a singular intelligence to extract the tools we need to make sense of our lives in the modern world.
Akomfrah is a Sundance alum with his previous film, THE NINE MUSES (2011). Ghana-born and London-raised, he became one of the leading voices in Black British filmmaking through his work with the Black Audio Film Collective. Beyond screening his films at major international festivals like Toronto and Venice, Akomfrah has directed numerous projects for British television. As with THE NINE MUSES, he is joined once again by his longtime producing partners Lina Gopaul (a co-founder of BAFC) and David Lawson of Smoking Dogs Films.
Why You Should Watch:
Akomfrah’s films are consistently intriguing and intellectually rigorous, which makes him a perfect match for his similarly thoughtful subject. Both men’s work directly engages with race and identity in a complex, thought-provoking manner, and if some American viewers might not be as familiar with Hall as British audiences are, this biography, beautifully constructed from his own presentations and interviews, will serve as an absorbing introduction.
For more information on Akomfrah and Smoking Dogs Films, visit their website. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.