The Stuart Hall Project (2013) (John Akomfrah – Smoking Dogs Films)

The Stuart Hall Project (2013) (John Akomfrah – Smoking Dogs Films)

darkmatter: in the ruins of imperial culture
General Issue 10 (2013-07-18)
ISSN: 2041-3254

Dhanveer Singh Brar

“With deepest gratitude and respect” – If there is a moment when the pieces of Akomfrah’s The Stuart Hall Project fall into place, it is with this closing note. Gratitude and respect might seem like old fashioned words, pointing to sentiments which are thought to be out of date. They bring to mind images of unashamed acts of deference, of laying prostate (whether physically or intellectually) in front of an elder, but on the flip side there is nothing wrong with paying some dues. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging a debt, when you know how and why that debt has been earned. Gratitude and respect. With deepest gratitude and respect. Akomfrah is reaching for something infinite here, something he knows he owes Hall, but equally that neither he nor Hall would ever have any interest in cutting a deal on. There is a sense in which perhaps the film is clouded by those sentiments. It can be construed as one-eyed in its attempt to mark Hall’s importance to the history of intellectual and political life in this country, but I think such criticism might be missing the point: Hall is the condition of possibility for too many of us to forget what it is we owe him, and there is a danger, in our current moment, that such an act of collective forgetting might already be underway. It is between gratitude and the refusal to turn that gesture into credit, that The Stuart Hall Project goes to work…

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