Handsworth Songs

03/17/2014

UK / 1986 / English

Directed by John Akomfrah

Still from 'Handsworth Songs'“We can elevate ourselves learning from the dead,” muses the West Indian bus driver. By a strange twist of fate, the voice of this anonymous character reemerges from the archive, its resonance infecting the future and making some sense of the present. But how do we access a history that hasn’t been recorded, that has been marginalized, its wisdom buried by social doctrine? Director John Akomfrah has built many artistic statements in a variety of media around the things “that, traditionally, are discarded.” The importance of these access points to reality lie in the very fact that they are latent in dominant discourse, but passed over in favor of the story and the explanation. Clipped from the colonial imaginary, they are nonetheless its backdrop, its milleu. They are history’s history. Read the rest of this entry »

Cousin Jules

03/03/2014

France / 1972 / French

Directed by Dominique Benicheti

Still from 'Cousin Jules'Something doesn’t seem right; Cousin Jules was made during the reign of the heroic documentary, whose calling card could be Margot Benacerraf’s Araya (1959), a film about salt laborers who live on Venezuela’s uttermost coastline. Buttress that with Jeffrey Jones’ muscular short-subjects about rail travel and cybernetics, and it becomes clear how out-of-the-blue Dominique Benicheti’s masterpiece of observation and immersion really was. Its portrait of French rural life makes no claims at universality, at drama, or any guiding ideas. But the objects speak, the activities sing of a deep and individual narrative. Read the rest of this entry »