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UK, 1991 (MIFF 1992)

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.

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