Billy Bang Lucky Man

France 2008, 88 mins
Directors: Markus Hansen, Jean-Marie Boulet

+ intro by author Kevin Le Gendre, and Q&A with co-director Markus Hansen

In March 1967 Billy Bang was conscripted to fight in the jungles of Vietnam. On his return to the US he experienced a psychological breakdown and identity crisis. Forty years on, now an acclaimed musician, he decides that the only way to repair the past and resolve his trauma is to return to Vietnam – this time accompanied by his violin. Billy Bang Lucky Man follows his musical journey, creating an inspirational film that explores not just the terrible effects of war, but also the remarkable ability of music to unite people and rise above the madness of destruction.

Markus Hansen was born in Heidelberg, Germany in 1963. When he was nine, his family moved to Liverpool, England. After his art studies at the University of Reading, he assisted Joseph Beuys on the installation Plight. In 1986/87, he lived in Columbia, South America with the Waunana Indians pursuing his anthropological interests in the creative healing role of the Shaman.

Upon his return to England, he started exhibiting with Maureen Paley in London and internationally. He moved to Paris after a residence at the Cartier Foundation in 1992. In 2014 he moved back to London where he now lives and works.

A primary topic for Hansen is his critical thinking about German post-war history and the social, political and emotional implications of the unspoken traumas passed on from generation to generation. Through the lens of his upbringing and family background, the work weaves together personal anecdote and reflections on contemporary society. Markus Hansen is interested in how information is communicated and transmitted between individuals and, in a large sense, across generations. In his new videos and photographs, Hansen is concerned with indirect, nonverbal ways in which people are indelibly connected by shared experience.

As a visual alchemist who explores tainted cultural ideas and their troublesome representations, Hansen transforms personal, cultural and art world experiences. In the past, he has borrowed imagery from historical German artists, taken photographs from his grandmother’s home, and stacked used champagne flutes from a private art opening into a glowing, floor-based chandelier to simultaneously layer and peel back meaning. The artist works in multiple styles and genres: printmaking, photography, film, video, performance, sculpture and installation. A distinguishable trait is his play of opposites, among them: light and dark, appearance and emotion, and heritage and history.

Host: Kevin Le Gendre is a British journalist, broadcaster and author whose work focuses on Black music. He is deputy editor of Echoes magazine, has written for a wide range of publications, including Jazzwise, MusicWeek, Vibrations and The Independent on Sunday and is a contributor to such radio programmes as BBC Radio 3’s J to Z and BBC Radio 4’s Front Row. At the 2009 Parliamentary Jazz Awards Le Gendre was chosen as ‘Jazz Journalist of the Year’. He is the author of Soul Unsung: Reflections on the Band in Black Popular Music (2012), Don’t Stop the Carnival: Black British Music: Vol 1 from the Middle Ages to the 1960s (2018) and Hear My Train a Comin’: The Songs of Jimi Hendrix (2020).

Directors: Markus Hansen, Jean-Marie Boulet
France 2008
88 mins

African Odysseys: Billy Bang Lucky Man + intro by author Kevin Le Gendre, and Q&A with co-director Markus Hansen
Sat 11 Dec 17:30
Silent Cinema: The Virginian + intro by BFI Curator Bryony Dixon
Sun 12 Dec 13:00
Seniors’ Free Archive Matinee: So Long at the Fair + Q&A (TBC)
Mon 13 Dec 14:00
Relaxed Screening: The Black Balloon
Tue 14 Dec 18:10
Projecting the Archive: I Could Go On Singing + intro by BFI Curator Josephine Botting
Thu 16 Dec 18:15
Bogarde at 100: The Servant
Thu 16 Dec 20:45; Mon 20 Dec 14:00 (Seniors’ matinee + Q&A TBC); Tue 28 Dec 18:30; Wed 29 Dec 17:55
Terror Vision: The Shout
Thu 30 Dec 20:50

Welcome to the home of great film and TV, with three cinemas and a studio, a world-class library, regular exhibitions and a pioneering Mediatheque with 1000s of free titles for you to explore. Browse special-edition merchandise in the BFI Shop.We're also pleased to offer you a unique new space, the BFI Riverfront – with unrivalled riverside views of Waterloo Bridge and beyond, a delicious seasonal menu, plus a stylish balcony bar for cocktails or special events. Come and enjoy a pre-cinema dinner or a drink on the balcony as the sun goes down.

Enjoy a great package of film benefits including priority booking at BFI Southbank and BFI Festivals. Join today at

We are always open online on BFI Player where you can watch the best new, cult & classic cinema on demand. Showcasing hand-picked landmark British and independent titles, films are available to watch in three distinct ways: Subscription, Rentals & Free to view.

See something different today on

Join the BFI mailing list for regular programme updates. Not yet registered? Create a new account at

Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email