STUDIOFILMCLUB is pleased to be part of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival again this year and we are thrilled that UK/ St Lucian artist filmmaker Isaac Julien is here to screen two nights of his films. Following last weeks screening of DEREK Isaac will be screening a selection of his recent shorter films including PARADISE OMEROS which is partially inspired by Derek Walcott’s epic poem. A biography of Isaac Julien is listed below this synopsis.
STUDIOFILMCLUB is located in the front foyer space of building 7.
Our screenings are FREE and all are welcome to ALL.
THURSDAY 25th September – 8:30 pm SHARP (doors open at 7:30)
Isaac Julien short film programme (91 minutes approx)
Isaac will introduce his films and there will be an opportunity for an informal post film discussion
* please note – this is not necessarily the actual running order…
Paradise Omeros delves into the fantasies and feelings of “creoleness” – the mixed language, the hybrid mental states and the territorial transpositions that arise when one lives in multiple cultures. Using the recurrent imagery of the sea, the film sweeps the viewer into a poetic meditation on the ebb and flow of self and stranger, love and hate, war and peace, xenophobe and xenophile.
Set in London in the 60s and on the island of St Lucia today, Paradise Omeros is loosely based on aspects of Derek Walcott’s epic poem, Omeros. The Nobel Prize winning poet, and the musician and composer Paul Gladstone Reid collaborated with Julien on the text and the score for the film, respectively.
True North is a meditative film comprising reflective images of the sublime, and, like Paradise Omeros, uses the landscape as a key location and theme. The film is loosely inspired by the story of the black American explorer, Matthew Henson (1866-1955). One of the key members of Robert E. Peary’s 1909 Arctic expedition, Henson was controversially and arguably the first person to reach the North Pole.
Shot in the spectacular landscapes of Iceland and Northern Sweden, True North offers a fascinating new visual reading of space and time and their relation to counter-histories. The film contests binaries which are present in many notations of expedition and adventure that clutter the history of discovery – here reason, order and stability are replaced by irrational meanderings, symbolic gestures from shamanistic tropes and the constant seeping inertia of the ice.
In Fantôme Afrique, the impact of both cultural and physical location is explored through a juxtaposition of images of Africa that consist of both the cosmopolitan realities of contemporary African life, and the traces or “fantômes” of an imaginary Africa that exists primarily in the imagination.
The film weaves its references through the rich imagery of urban Ouagadougou, the centre for cinema in Africa, and the arid spaces of rural Burkina Faso, and is punctuated by archival footage from early colonial expeditions and landmark moments in African history. At the same time two actors/dancers move through the constantly shifting landscapes – from ancient mosques and indigenous buildings to urban nocturnes shot during FESPACO, the pan-African cinema congress – offering a study in locomotive contrast.
Western Union: Small Boats
To escape deplorable economic and human rights conditions, thousands of African and Asian “clandestines” depart each year from North Africa on the 100-mile journey across the Mediterranean Sea to the southern coast of Sicily. Setting off in large boats they are transferred mid-sea to overcrowded smaller fishing boats where they drift for days on end until they are sighted by the coastguard or sink. Local fishermen often spot the boats first and have been complicit in what is frequently described as the “Sicilian Holocaust.”
In Western Union: Small Boats, Isaac Julien depicts the picturesque Sicilian seaside village of Agrigento and the grandeur of Palazzo Gangi (famed location from director Luchino Visconti’s masterpiece The Leopard) in stunning juxtaposition to the deadly voyage of the clandestines. Employing a suggestive, non-representational cinematic style, the film subverts strict narrative, creating a collage of sound and image. Throughout the film are a series of choreographed vignettes echoing and rearticulating these dramatic voyages. Western Union: Small Boats is the final installment of Julien’s trilogy of cross-cultural cinematic travelogues that includes True North and Fantôme Afrique.
Baltimore is partly a pastiche of 1970’s Blaxploitation cinema and partly a surrealistic allegory about race, class and history. Soundtracked by sirens, gunfire and angry dialogue lifted from old films, the movie follows a young woman and a gray-bearded older man (the actor and director Melvin Van Peebles) as they move separately from the gritty streets of Baltimore into the city’s Great Blacks in Wax Museum.
Inside the museum the couple become players in a dreamlike cat-and-mouse game that takes them from tacky exhibits into the palatial Peabody Library and the galleries of the Walters Art Museum, hung with European old masters. In one of these galleries, the man discovers a group of sculptures from the wax museum and comes face to face with his own wax image in the company of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the end the man and woman return to the street as a tough male movie voice intones: ”The party’s over, baby. It’s dawn. It’s reality.”
Isaac Julien – biography
Isaac Julien is one of Britain’s foremost artists, as equally acclaimed for his fluent and arresting single-screen films as his vibrant and inventive gallery installations. Moving deftly between filmworld and artworld, Julien remains one of the most original voices on the contemporary art scene.
Julien was born in East London in 1960, the son of St Lucian parents. He studied film at St Martins College of Art, London (1980–85). As a student his films dealt with current real life situations such as the death of a young black man, Colin Roach whilst in police custody (Who Killed Colin Roach?). Another film centred on the Notting Hill Carnival riots (Territories, 1985). He was subsequently at the forefront of the new wave of British Black filmmakers, instrumental in setting up the Black film collective SANKOFA where he made films such as This is not an AIDS Advertisement. Julien came to prominence in the film world with his 1989 drama-documentary Looking for Langston, gaining a cult following with this poetic exploration of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. This following was expanded in 1991 when his film Young Soul Rebels won the Semaine de la Critique prize for best film at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 2001 Julien was nominated for the Turner Prize and was the recipient of both the prestigious MIT Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts (2001) and the Frameline Lifetime Achievement Award (2002). His work Paradise Omeros was presented as part of Documenta XI in Kassel (2002). He won the Grand Jury Prize at the KunstFilmBiennale in Cologne (2003) for his single screen version of Baltimore, and the 2005 Aurora Award. His widely acclaimed documentary film, Baadasssss Cinema was made in 2002.
Julien was a jury member at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival and the 2007 Rotterdam International Film Festival. He has had solo shows at the Pompidou Centre Paris (2005), MoCA Miami (2005), the Kestner Gesellschaft Hanover (2006) and Metro Pictures New York (2007). He is represented in the Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, Guggenheim and Hirshhorn Collections.