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Black Diaspora Cinema

Looking for Langston / Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask

Isaac Julien


A session that plunges audiences into the universe of multidisciplinary artist, theoretician, and professor Isaac Julien (CBE, Londres, 1960) through two of his key works: Looking for Langston and Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask.

The two works are lyrical and essayistic portraits of two key figures of the black diaspora: poet, activist, and playwright Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967), a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, and the Martinican Frantz Fanon (1925 – 1961), psychologist, revolutionary, and philosopher, essential to the pan-African and anticolonial movements. In these early works, we witness Julien’s mastery at breaking barriers between diverse artistic formats, in a foretaste of the author’s later transition from cinema to white cube with highly seductive multi-screen works that evince the injustices and planetary effects of global capitalism.


Looking for Langston
Isaac Julien
1989/ UK / Digital / B/N / 46 min / Original with Spanish subtitles

Finished when Julien formed part of the Sankofa Film and Video Collective, Looking for Langston is an elegiac meditation on the Harlem Renaissance and a lyrical exploration and recreation of the private world of poet, activist, and playwright Langston Hughes and his colleagues in that movement in the 1920s. This “non-narrative monochrome documentary” (Julien), completed with the research and archival assistance of cinema critic and curator Mark Nash, with a soundtrack that joins poems by Hughes, Richard Bruce Nugent, James Baldwin, and Essex Hemphill and 1980s club music, is a reference point in the exploration of artistic expression, the nature of desire, and the reciprocity of the gaze. Created in the midst of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and a foundational work of New Queer Cinema (B. Ruby Rich), this film, rife with a sense of urgency and contemporaneity, is a paradigmatic example of the expressive and discursive possibilities of the filmic essay.


Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask
Isaac Julien
1996/ UK / Digital / Color / 70 min / Original with Spanish subtitles

An audiovisual reference for approaching Frantz Fanon (Martinique, 1925 – Paris, 1961), thinker, revolutionary, author, anticolonial psychiatrist and an inspiration for third world liberation movements in the twentieth century. In this complex presentation, with its mingling of stylistic approaches and multiform narratives, alternating archive with historical recreations featuring actor Colin Salmon as Fanon, Julien immerses us in the experiences of the adolescent Fanon on the island of Martinique as a departure point for his later writings and his years of resistance in Algeria. Paired with reflections by specialists and with the close collaboration of friend and mentor Stuart Hall, Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask is an essential work for postcolonial studies and the black diaspora.

Presenters: Beatriz Leal

This activity is part of William Kentridge, Black Diaspora Cinema

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