Isaac Julien, born in 1960 in London. The artist, film producer and university lecturer studied painting and film at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. He is the founder of the Sankofa Film and Video Collective and Normal Films. Until 2015, he served as professor at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe. His numerous films include Looking for Langston (1989), Young Soul Rebels (1991), Baltimore (2003), Derek (2008) and Better Life (2010).
Website Isaac Julien
KINO DER KUNST 2020
Lessons of the Hour
GBR 2019, 35mm, 4k, 25’45’’, Englisch/English
Kamera/Cinematography: Nina Kellgren
CAST: Ray Fearon, Cara Horgan, Mikael Olsson
“Lessons of the Hour” is a poetic meditation on the life and times of Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), the visionary African American abolitionist and freed slave. The film proposes a contemplative journey into Douglass’ zeitgeist and its relationship to contemporaneity and includes excerpts of Douglass’ most arresting speeches and allusions to his private and public milieus.
KINO DER KUNST 2017
Young Soul Rebels
(GBR/FRAU/GER/ESP 1991, 105 Min., 35mm, dtF)
Young soul DJ Chris becomes implicated in a murder…
Set in 1977, during the week of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Together with his partner Caz, Chris, a young black London DJ, runs pirate radio station ‚Soul Patrol’ from an East End garage. When a mutual friend is murdered whilst cruising in a London park, Chris is arrested for the murder.
Young Soul Rebels was awarded the Semaine de la critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991 and launched the career of Sophie Okonedo. Also starring Valentine Nonyela and Mo Sesay.
(GBR 1993, 7 Min. 59 Sek., 35mm, enOF)
“The Attendant” (1993) is actually set in a museum: Wilberforce House in Hull, England, which is devoted to the history of slavery. It’s a real place, though in Isaac Julien’s hands it looks surreal. The plot revolves around sexual fantasies aroused in a middle-aged black male museum guard – or attendant – by a young white male visitor. Much of the action takes place after closing time. As the guard paces the galleries, a huge 19th-century painting titled “Slaves on the West Coast of Africa”, by the French artist François-Auguste Biard, comes to life, its melodramatic scene of a white master bending over a dying black slave transformed into an up-to-date, leather clad sadomasochistic grouping… Another scene plays in a gallery hung with soft-core drawings by Tom of Finland, one of many references to the contemporary art in the film.
Holland Cotter, The New York Times (24. November 2006)
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin White Mask
(GBR 1996, 73 Min., 35mm, enOF)
Interviews, reconstructions and archive footage tell in a drama-documentary the story of the life and work of the highly influential anti-colonialist writer Frantz Fanon, author of “Black Skin, White Mask” and “The Wretched of the Earth” and a psychiatric doctor in Algeria during its war of independence with France.
The impetus for the film project was to restore to academic and artistic discourses a recognition of both the originality and contradictory nature of this major thinker. It was initially conceived as a reflection on the revival of interest in Fanon’s ideas in black visual and performance arts. The black arts movement in Britain and North America had sought a more substantial basis for reflection on the black body and its representations. In development, the film\’s mandate became broader to include other aspects of Fanon´s influence and legacy.
(USA 1999, 14 Min., 16mm, Video Transfer, enOF)
Produced in collaboration with and featuring choreographers Bebe Miller and Ralph Lemon along with British actress Cleo Sylvestre, Three explores aspects of desire through dance movements and symbolically weighted images.
These are juxtaposed with their social, cultural or religious sources thereby reifying a narrative which draws on and comments on interdisciplinary codes. Indeed, one of the objectives of Julien\’s oeuvre is to break down the barriers which exist between different artistic disciplines by uniting them in an exponential dialogue. As such the collaborative nature of this work is one of its most important elements, drawing from and commenting on film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting and sculpture and uniting these in a poetic landscape to construct a powerfully visual narrative.
(GBR 2003, 12 Min. 43 Sek., 16mm, DVD Transfer, enOF)
Inspired by blaxploitation movies while he was filming his documentary “Baadasssss Cinema”, Julien appropriates the styles, gestures, language and iconography of the genre to create a work that defies easy categorization. Starring veteran black actor and director Melvin Van Peebles, Baltimore was designed in part as homage to Van Peebles´ movies. It unites three Baltimore museums with blaxploitation cinema, the tough talking, hard-living symbol of black empowerment that Van Peebles helped usher in with his 1971 movie “Sweet Sweetback´s Baadasssss Song”. Baltimore is ironic and funky, nostalgic and futuristic, rough and fine. It is characterized by oscillation and an insistent formal play with linear perspective which also pays homage to Piero della Francesca and more particularly, a painting of unknown authorship, c.1500 known as “View of an Ideal City” which features in the collection of the Walters Art Museum.
(GBR 2008, 78 Min., Digital Video, enOF)
Derek Jarman’s films constantly interrogated time and art, and epitomised his own era. He was a painter, part of that moment that made sixties London a capital of the art world, and a film-maker, perhaps the single most crucial figure of British independent cinema through the seventies, eighties and nineties. He lived as a gay man surfing the joys of Gay Liberation and the sorrows of Aids and as a participant observer, noting with pen or camera all that passed before him – from punk to Margaret Thatcher.
Now those images serve to place his art in his time. There are also images of Jarman himself, as he erupted into the viewfinder of the news media. And, as the thread from which it is all woven, a day long interview in 1990 with Colin MacCabe. It is his message in a bottle, a survey of his life from the point of view of his death, a talisman for the future.
The present in Isaac Julien’s documentary is represented by a letter written to Derek by Tilda Swinton and read by her as a voiceover which provides a beguiling narrative thread throughout the film, bringing his life closer to a new generation, a new audience.