The Last Angel of History | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Last Angel of History

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The Last Angel of History

I've never seen anything quite like this 1996 video by John Akomfrah, a 45-minute meditation on black consciousness whose dense, almost chaotic weave of images and ideas offers space travel and science fiction as metaphors for the experience of the African diaspora. Interviews with musicians and writers alternate with an account of the fictional Data Thief, a time traveler who surfs past and present looking for information that will help him predict his own future. Akomfrah's anti-Cartesian, postrational view of knowledge is a little frightening but accounts for much of the film's power and originality: some speakers are melded together by slow dissolves, as if their ideas were being mixed into a stew, while other images are joined by rapid intercutting, the unpredictable rhythmic shifts and explosions of insight echoing the wildly inventive Sun Ra music included on the sound track. This is less a sociological study than an over-the-top fantasy, an improvisational riff on time and history asserting that, as the Data Thief puts it, "the line between social reality and science fiction is an optical illusion." On the same program, Art Jones's 27-minute video Know Your Enemy (1991), a similarly chaotic blend of interviews, archival footage, and printed titles that explores how blacks express their views in a hostile culture. Kino-Eye Cinema at Xoinx Tea Room, 2933 N. Lincoln, Friday, January 30, 8:00, 773-384-5533. --Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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