On Monday, BAMcinématek opens its four-day retrospective Black Audio Film Collective with The Stuart Hall Project (2013), an essay by one of the collective‘s seven founders, John Akomfrah. It’ll also screen at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis on Friday. Aaron Cutler for the L: “This collage-like portrait of a cultural intellectual who developed in England after a childhood in colonial Jamaica combines archival materials with freshly shot footage of Hall, who just died on Feb. 10 at age 82 and lived insisting that a free society must be an equal and openly multicultural one.”
“Although Stuart had been sick for a long time, it is still difficult to imagine a future without him,” writes Isaac Julien for the BFI: “without Hall the theorist; without Hall the activist; without Stuart my friend. By the time I began making films in the early 80s, Stuart was already a kind of hero to us in workshops and collectives like Sankofa Film and Video and Black Audio. We knew him from his work with the New Left Review, CND and at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. A renowned music lover and a man with a tremendous sense of fun, it is somehow fitting that it was not at a march, conference, screening, lecture or exhibition that I met Stuart, but at a nightclub. He is recognized for his efforts in elevating the study of popular culture to the academy, but for all his clarity and rigor in its analysis, he also took the greatest delight in it.”
For more remembrances of Stuart Hall and analyses of his impact, see, in the Guardian, Martin Jacques, Stuart Jeffries, David Morley and Bill Schwarz, and for the London Review of Books, Clancy Sigal.
Writing for the Walker Art Center, Adam Loomis calls Akomfrah’s Project “a beautifully crafted chronological exploration of Hall’s life through archival footage and the sounds of Miles Davis, with which Hall resonated deeply. But despite its adherence to a logical linear progression, the film overwhelms its viewers with the impression of infinity. Cuts disappear as we hear the sound of ocean tides, and a lonely record keeps spinning on and on in an empty room. Akomfrah’s film is masterful in that it highlights a man’s unique devotion to truth—a way for which we yearn, but which seems forever out of reach. This is a quandary with which Hall’s life was so intimately tied that it seems he himself, in spite of his death, has become endless—a spirit of heated curiosity and investigation.”
More from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 4/5), Dave Calhoun (Time Out, 4/5), Ashley Clarke (Sight & Sound), Philip Concannon (Little White Lies), James Greenberg (Hollywood Reporter), and Guy Lodge (Variety). The Stuart Hall Project premiered at the 2013 edition of Sundance and is now available on DVD from the BFI.
Update, 2/21: “While The Stuart Hall Project would seem like the ideal occasion to tease out the connections between the theorist and the Collective,” writes Leo Goldsmith for Artforum, “or indeed between theory and practice, the film itself strangely lacks much of the radical energy of the [Collective’s] earlier works. While no doubt heartfelt, the film functions better as an affectionate personal tribute to Hall’s life than as an evocation of his intellectual legacy, and leaves major threads largely untreated—including his activism on behalf of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, his critique of Thatcher, and indeed the whole period during which both Hall and the Collective were most conspicuous.”