Light Industry at Film Forum: Black Audio Film Collective

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Handsworth Songs (John Akomfrah/Black Audio Film Collective, 1986)Light Industry at Film Forum: Black Audio Film Collective
Tuesday, August 30th, 19h
Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, New York, NY

- Handsworth Songs (John Akomfrah/Black Audio Film Collective, 16mm, 1986, 60 mins)

In light of the recent waves of social unrest in Britain, we have decided to present a screening of Black Audio Film Collective's seminal essay film Handsworth Songs, which takes the 1985 Birmingham riots as its point of departure.

"The collective's key work, Handsworth Songs (1986), is a succinct articulation of the dialectic of crisis and difference, and a critical primer - in artistic terms - of transnational post-colonialism. Though Handsworth Songs is an analytical essay on the cultural conditions under which young black men and women in Britain lived, and the racist policing tactics directed against them, the film, produced for Channel Four, did not merely reflect upon the structural violence of Thatcherism. In the aftermath of the protests in Handsworth, the film inhabits a different order of things: it is as much about elsewhere as about Britain.

That elsewhere is the broader post-colonial world. This feeling of disjuncture is reflected not only in the jump cuts of the film's narrative discontinuity - moving between archival photographs, newsreel fragments, media reportage, and on-site interviews - it is also deeply anchored by the sombre aural pulse, the disjunctive syncopation of the snare drum beat, the mournful reverb of the dub score that sustains a quiet rage. Though ostensibly addressing the issues of policing, Handsworth Songs reflects more profoundly the agency of the oppressed; it narrates their stories, not purely from the point of view of the event from which it derives its name, but equally through an archaeology of the visual archive of minoritarian dwelling in Britain. As is often the case in BAFC's work, the ghosts of those stories inform the notion of a historically inflected dub cinema whose spatial, temporal and psychic dynamics relays the scattered trajectories of immigrant communities. This is what makes Handsworth Songs a classic of 1980s cultural analysis..." - Okwui Enwezor

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