Handsworth Songs | Chicago Reader

Handsworth Songs

Rated NR 60 minutes 1986

The artist group Black Audio Film Collective created this experimental work in 1986, responding to the race riots that had recently erupted across England. The mosaic-like structure—which incorporates interviews with riot victims, archival footage from the 50s and 60s, and musical performances—successfully conveys the unorganized resistance of minority groups against the overwhelming bigotry of the time (as a pointed news clip reminds us, Margaret Thatcher was all too willing to stoke racist sentiment for political gain). This shares with the contemporaneous Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987) and The Last of England (1988) a stirring sense of anger toward the Thatcher regime, but it also contains joyful moments that are no less powerful: a black calypso singer improvising a tune for news reporters, a Sikh community group concluding a meeting with song. John Akomfrah is the credited director.

Film Credits

Director: John Akomfrah

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