The Stuart Hall Project (tbc)

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John Akomfrah
Stuart Hall

The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byKatherine McLaughlin7/09/2013

Four out of Five Stars
Running Time: 103 mins

A passionate, creative and vibrant tribute to cultural theorist Stuart Hall that should inspire further discussion and reflection on the world we live in.

What’s it all about?
Stuart Hall was born in Kingston, Jamaica and moved to England in 1951 to begin his education at Oxford University, he became a radical voice and inspiration to many over the next fifty or so years. His time was spent dedicated to finding his cultural identity, and exploring a new wave of revolution. His pin-pointing of important historical moments is closely examined by director John Akomfrah in this exquisitely crafted documentary.

The Good
This tribute to Stuart Hall exemplifies exactly why his voice spoke to generations of people who felt displaced; Hall’s calm and measured tone plays out over images of civil disobedience and uprisings all over the world from the last half of the twentieth century. The music of American Jazz musician Miles Davis, who greatly inspired Hall, is used as the soundtrack to his life, and this perfectly matches the talk of revolution and adds a vivid ambience to the unfolding tale of how a man like Stuart Hall became a prolific cultural and political thinker in the UK.

The focus of discussion in The Stuart Hall Project is race and cultural identity during the rise of counter-culture, and its significance within this period, which is closely connected to British colonialism. Akomfrah provides exceptional insight into how Hall’s upbringing in Jamaica shaped him; being darker than the rest of his family, he felt a deep pressure to succeed due to the social attitudes of the time which deemed him to be lesser than those with lighter skin (a hangover from the British rule which is still sadly pertinent today).

In The Stuart Hall Project Akomfrah includes powerful political images of many global conflicts to illustrate the changing face of the world during the time Hall was maturing and rebelling with fierce political fury through his writing, and it is both inspiring and educational to see.

The Great
Director John Akomfrah chooses to evoke the mood of the time Hall grew up in, was educated in, and eventually flourished in, as he became one of the founders of the New Left Review and a major figure in British Cultural Studies. The evolution of Hall’s theories and his ability to generate informed and intelligent discussion is stirring and should carry over after the film has ended.

The brilliant handpicked archive footage of Hall outsmarting the ill-informed, and explaining in a clear and concise manner how decolonisation impacted the immigration influx, including Britain’s amnesia about the rule and abandonment of many countries, makes for blood-boiling viewing. That awful question ‘why are they in our country?’ comes up alongside footage of ‘England Our England’ graffitied on the streets in protest against the shift to a multicultural country.

Akomfrah chooses to include Hall’s own personal experience of racism in Birmingham, after he married feminist professor Catherine Hall, who was white, and throughout the documentary Hall’s perceptiveness is often informed by his own life experience making his theories relatable, motivating and particularly moving.

Worth seeing?
The Stuart Hall Project is the documentary equivalent of This Is England in its ability to educate, entertain and enthuse about its subject matter and the Britain of the past. The Stuart Hall Project examines its subject with a deep respect and passion, paints an honest depiction of a radical era and encourages further discussion. Whether you’re familiar with Stuart Hall or not this documentary provides comprehensive and essential viewing. Everyone should see it.

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Content updated: 18/02/2020 11:36

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