Director: John Akomfrah
Where Isaac Julien's Young Soul Rebels (MFF, 1991) gave voice to the black youth dance-set of the mid-late 1970s, John Akomfrah's new film depicts, in a very different form, the little-seen face of 'black' swinging London through the 60s — a community caught up as much in contemporary political urgencies as in fashion trends. Bold and adventurous in form — it works as a silent film despite the dialogue — the film flashes back from 1972 to the mid 60s, brilliantly illustrating the fate of its central characters over the decade.
"Documentary material tracing the life of Black activist Michael X (aka Abdul Malik) is set against dramatized fragments from the 60s and 70s of a fictional household of politicized hedonists. While examining the surviving contradictions of Michael X — committed idealist or con man, radical or Rachmanite, activist or assassin? — the film indulges itself in a sublime free-jazz soundtrack which substitutes for most of the mouthed but unheard dialogue of its actors. Inter-racial love affairs are acted out virtually in mime and period wigs and costumes denote the passing years in droll fashion. Yet there's an increasingly desperate edge to the partying as we move towards the time of Malik's arrest.
The result is as much a critical lament for a period when cultural activity went hand-in-hand with its political equivalent, as it is a sharp attempt to match the improvisatory imperatives of jazz in film. Otherwise, Who Needs A Heart is possibly the hippest British film experiment for some time." • Nick James, City Limits
John Akomfrah, director of Who Needs A Heart and founder of Black Audio Film Collective, is a Festival guest and will introduce the screening.