9, 10, 11 and 12 January

In its third edition, Focus turns to the cinematic work of Isaac Julien, in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of his film Looking for Langston (1989). Julien played a leading role in the new wave of independent black cinema that appeared in the United Kingdom in the 1980s under the government of Margaret Thatcher, and which was strongly influenced by the debates around post-colonialism promoted by theorists such as Homi Bhabha and Stuart Hall.

From his first films, Julien’s work has been characterised by experimental ways of constructing narrative that result from the mixing of genres, as well as a careful formal resolution that restores political force to the beauty of the image. Briefly, one could say that Julien’s cinema addresses issues of race and representations of masculinity. But his films are also concerned with the construction of history, gender, capital and political struggle. Love, reverie and desire run through much of his productions and challenge – through their temporalities, narrative constructions and aesthetic forms – the conventions of white heterosexual cinema. From the recovery of foundational figures such as Langston Hughes, Frantz Fanon and Derek Jarman, Julien pays tribute to key activists in the field of anti-racist and anti-AIDS struggles, and thereby claims a discourse in which the figure of the black queer is doubly marginalised: devoid of a history and, with it, its referents.

Julien’s biographical portraits, which are an essential part of this Focus, do not seek so much to make a reliable portrait of the character, as to reconstruct some of the period scenes that prize open the field of vision normally limited to characters addressed as historical exceptions, thus giving us access to worlds rarely portrayed in the cinema. Using basic resources such as the narrative or the aesthetic, Julien develops a cinema of opposition, putting into play a cinematographic practice that produces imaginary worlds and stories that can be defined as a space for political and social action.

With Julien’s participation, the four sessions of Focus #3 will present a selection of the director’s extensive filmography, including his participation as a founding member of Sankofa Film and Video Collective. These projects show different aesthetic approaches to race, class and queer issues, and invite us to question what radicalism means today.

In collaboration with:
Tabakalera
Filmoteca de Catalunya
Isaac Julien, "Hommage Noir (Looking For Langston Vintage Series)", 1989/2016

Programme

Activity
Isaac Julien, "Hommage Noir (Looking For Langston Vintage Series)", 1989/2016

Looking for Langston

Introduced by Isaac Julien and Pablo Martínez, MACBA head of Programmes. Roundtable following the screening with the director chaired by Tanya Barson.

Looking for Langston, Isaac Julien, 1989, digital, b/w, 46 min, VOSE.
Described by Isaac Julien as a non-narrative monochrome documentary, it examines the private life of African-American activist, poet, screenwriter and columnist Langston Hughes (1902–1967) and his relationship with other black and gay artists and writers, with whom he organised the Harlem Renaissance movement during the 1920s. It was directed while Julien was part of Sankofa, with critic and curator Mark Nash assisting in the research. In addition to being a precursor to the New Queer Cinema, for the last thirty years this documentary has been a benchmark in African-American studies at American universities and art schools.

Activity
"Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask", Isaac Julien, 1996 (still)

Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask

Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask, Isaac Julien, 1996, digital, colour, sound, 70 min, VOSE.
This film reconstructs a possible portrait of the influential psychologist, philosopher, writer and activist Frantz Fanon (1925–1961), reflecting on Fanon’s personal experience in his native Martinique that laid the foundation for his writing. Reality and fiction meet in a complex web of stylistic approaches and narrative devices, with historical re-enactments interpreted by actor Colin Salmon.

Presentation and roundtable following the screening by Isaac Julien.

Activity
"Derek", Isaac Julien, 2008. Foto: Kellgren

Derek

Derek, Isaac Julien, 2008, digital, colour, sound, 78 min, VOSE.
This poetic documentary introduces us to the life of the British filmmaker, artist and writer Derek Jarman (1942–1994) through the use of archive footage. It was made in collaboration with Tilda Swinton and focuses on the one-day interview Jarman gave to Colin McCabe during the 1980s.

From Sebastiane (1976) to Blue (1992), Jarman’s films constantly ask questions about time and art as seen from his own context, a time when gay liberation and AIDS came to the fore. Possibly one of the most relevant figures of queer cinema, Jarman died as a result of AIDS in 1994.

Activity
"Young Soul Rebels" (Mo Sesay and Valentine Nonyela), Isaac Julien, 1991

Young Soul Rebels

Young Soul Rebels, Isaac Julien, 1991, 35 mm, colour, sound, 105 min, VOSE.
The year is 1977. Chris and Caz are pirate radio DJs that broadcasts soul and funk. Someone murders their friend TJ, who is gay, and Chris and his girlfriend become suspects. Meanwhile, Caz establishes a relationship with Billibud, a punk who discovers the extent of endemic racism and homophobia. Young Soul Rebels is both a thriller and social drama that reflects the hotbed of subcultures, races and sexual options in London during the pre-Thatcher era.

Language: English

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While there are ideas about psychological and emotional developmental processes held within the sculptures I make, the things themselves are actual physical explorations into thinking, feeling, communicating and relating.
Karla Black