From Real | Reel Journal: “John Akomfrah and The Black Audio Film Collective: A (Trans)National Treasure”

By Chloë Penman

John Akomfrah is a black-British filmmaker, coming out of a tradition of politically engaged and aesthetically minded experimental art cinema. In her Guardian article, John Akomfrah: Migration and Memory, Sukhdev Sanhu states that “John Akomfrah (is) widely recognised as one of Britain’s most expansive and intellectually rewarding film makers”. Akomfrah was part of the Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), a group of filmmakers who made films and gallery installations between the years of 1982-1998. InA Statement by the Black Audio Film Collective John Akomfrah focuses his, and the collective’s, inquiry around the specificity of black independent filmmaking. “What does ‘black independent filmmaking mean’?” he asks. He has spent his career answering that question, using theoretical insights to shape his particular brand of politically, ethically and socially engaged cinema. While researching this article it has become clear that Akomfrah cannot be separated from the BAFC legacy, nor can that legacy exist without Akomfrah. I tried to separate the two, toying with the idea of writing about the BAFC in a separate piece. But the truth is that Akomfrah’s oeuvre and links with the BAFC are an evolutionary story, his works and collaborations are enmeshed. Colin Prescod remarks on this: “I’m struck with the fact that I’m seeing images in Mnemosyne (2010) that began to emerge in Handsworth Songs (1986), I’m struck with the wholeness of your artistic effort”. Akomfrah follows a poetic logic that has seen his work evolve and link over time.

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