This was a rare opportunity to see a one-off screening of the legendary ‘Handsworth Songs’ by Black Audio Film Collective, which Street Level presented as part of Document 5 Human Rights Film Festival at the CCA. The film’s point of departure is the civil disturbances of September and October 1985 in the Birmingham district of Handsworth and in the urban centres of London. Running throughout Handsworth Songs is the idea that the riots were the outcome of British society’s suppression of black presence and black desire in Britain. The film portrays civil disorder as an opening onto a secret history of dissatisfaction, associated with industrial decline and the crisis of documentary as a mode of address. The term ‘Songs’ refers not to musicality, but instead invokes the idea of documentary as a poetic montage of associations, familiar from the British documentary cinema of John Grierson and Humphrey Jennings. Inaugurated in 1982 and dissolved in 1998, the seven-person Black Audio Film Collective is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential artist groups to emerge from Britain in recent years. They have produced award winning film, photography, slide tape, video, installation, posters and interventions, much of which was dedicated to engaging with the past, present and future of memory, media and moving image.
John Akomfrah of BAFC introducing the film 'Handsworth Songs' at Document 5
by Black Audio Film Collective
Was presented on Saturday 20th October 2007 at the CCA Glasgow
in association with Document 5: Human Rights Film Festival