The Stuart Hall Project (UK, 2013)

A force for good

A force for good

This film was a bit of a ‘blast from the past’ not simply because it focused on the 1950s-70s of Stuart Hall’s life, but the form of John Akomfrah’s film  reminded me of the experimental 1980s. Older folk may remember Hall’s appearances on television; from the film it seemed he was used as the ‘voice of the left’ by the BBC at least in the ’60s. I say ‘seemed’ because it’s not a straightforward expository documentary; the voice over consists of Hall’s voice from different contexts. I don’t remember seeing Hall on telly at the time and was intrigued as to how Hall’s Afro-Carribean ethnicity might have affected the perception of his views. However, Roy Stafford – who introduced the film and led a post-screening discussion – said that the wasn’t seen as ‘black’ at the time so his skin colour was irrelevant.

For those who weren’t watching the news in the ’60s, Hall is known for his brilliant work in Media Studies, particularly on representation and audience readings, as well as his Open University programmes. Of course, many won’t have heard of him at all.

Akomfrah’s film took a bit of ‘tuning in’ to but once I was into the rhythms, almost literally with its fantastic Miles Davis soundtrack, the film was an affecting concoction of ideas and history. I’ve just noticed that Riddles of the Sphinx is my next video rental – more nostalgia for me then!

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3 Responses

  1. I think that when you asked the question I said that Stuart Hall’s skin colour was not something I remembered thinking about at the time (i.e. in the late 1950s/early 1960s). Others then said that it wasn’t until later that race became an issue associated with immigration. The film does make clear that Stuart Hall became more aware of racism when he got married in Birmingham later in the decade – and it was in Smethwick in 1964 that the Tories ran the infamous race hatred election campaign that enabled them to win a Labour seat.

    While race was not an issue for me (living in an area where what was then known as ‘Commonwealth’ immigration had not been a local experience) for others it was becoming something to be aware of.

  2. […] The Stuart Hall Project (UK, 2013) […]

  3. […] was good to see the BFI, which funded this film, recently backing the intellectually adventurous Stuart Hall Project. With feminism making a long-needed comeback, Hollywood giving up on thought-provoking cinema, the […]

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