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Handworth Songs, 1987. Directed by John Akomfrah.
Handworth Songs, 1987. Directed by John Akomfrah.

October 30, 2012

Screening and discussion with:
John Akomfrah, OBE
Director, filmmaker, and writer, Smoking Dogs Films, UK
Lina Gopaul
Producer and writer, Smoking Dogs Films, UK
Renée Green
Free Agent Media and ACT Director and Associate Professor

Handsworth Songs (1986), an essayistic documentary film, explores the history of the contemporary British black experience, in particular the riots and racial disturbances that broke out in 1985 Britain. Directed by John Akomfrah and produced by Lina Gopaul, the film pushed the boundaries and techniques of documentary filmmaking, combining real footage of street fights, archival material, confessions of people, and poetic voiceovers to portray a profound moment in the struggle for social justice.

Salman Rushdie’s 1991 book, Imaginary Homelands, includes a review of Handsworth Songs he’d written in 1987. In his introduction he reflects on “a transformed international scene” since the “upheavals of 1989 and 1990,” and writes that the film “stimulated a lively debate among black British film-makers.” The post-screening discussion will address current reflections on the film within the shifting contexts of the past and the present and in relation to the work of Black Audio Film Collective and Smoking Dogs Films.

John Akomfrah, OBE, and Lina Gopaul co-founded the seminal film and video group Black Audio Film Collective and the more recent production company Smoking Dogs Films. Their collaborative and long-standing partnership has won them over thirty-five international awards and over one hundred official film festival selections. Exploring the fertile grounds of film, television, and new technologies, their work continues to challenge and redefine the modes of documentary filmmaking.

This lecture is presented in collaboration with the MIT Visiting Artists Program and is part of John Akomfrah’s initial weeklong residency.