The Black Arts Movement on Film

Enjoy these radical and hugely creative films from pioneering Black artists.

The Black Arts Movement is the name given to a number of fine artists who in the 1980s used a wide-range of different media forms to explore questions around post-colonial identity, the legacies of Empire and more. Their radical work would take many forms and exist in different contexts. The films in this programme employ a variety of creative techniques as a way of presenting their ideas and discussing each artist’s vision, often with an emphasis of personal and interpersonal witness. The makers include Simone Alexander, Zarina Bhimji, Sonia Boyce, Allan De Souza, Keith Piper, Donald Rodney and Claudette Johnson, in films by Amanda Holiday, Ayo Akingbade, plus Edward George and Trevor Mathison of the Black Audio Film Collective.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with artist and poet Amanda Holiday and researcher, lecturer, curator and artist Richard Hylton, chaired by assistant curator, BFI National Archive projects, Xavier Pillai.

About the panel
Artist and poet Amanda Holiday completed a degree in Fine Art at Wimbledon School of Art in 1987. She exhibited with and was active in the 2nd wave of the black British art movement before moving into film and script writing – directing short experimental films for the Arts Council, BFI and Channel 4 before studying briefly at the NFTS. Between 2001-10, she lived in Cape Town where she worked in educational television.

Her chapbook ‘The Art Poems’ was published in April 2018 as part of New Generation African Poets (Tano) and her writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner (US), South Bank Poetry Magazine, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Lolwe, ANMLY (US), CUSP and Frieze. In 2020, she founded the UK’s first crowdfunded poetry press Black Sunflowers, and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Brighton.

Richard Hylton is a researcher, lecturer, curator and artist. He is currently a lecturer in contemporary art at SOAS, London.

His writing has featured in a number of British and US-based journals and books including in the Routledge Companion to African American Art History, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, the International Review of African American Art, Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art and Visual Culture, Art Monthly, Art Review, Burlington Magazine and Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art. His book-length study, The Nature of the Beast: Cultural Diversity and the Visual Arts Sector, A Study of Policies, Initiatives and Attitudes 1976-2006, was published by University of Bath.

Hylton is currently researching aspects of Black diasporic art and art history including a monographic study on British art history, race and the body politic, African American art in the international arena, and an exploration of the relationships between contemporary art, ethnography and the western museum.

Xavier Alexandre Pillai is assistant curator for H22 as part of the Archive projects team at the BFI National Archive. He joined the BFI in 2018 as a trainee in the video conservation department sponsored by ICON, working to preserve legacy formats and interdepartmentally throughout the National Archive.

His interests lie in multicultural television, government communications, documentary films, and pre-independence colonial films. Xavier has worked across Video Nation, COI collections, and programmed From the Caribbean to West Africa: Edric Connor’s Travelogues for the London Film Festival and has worked as a programmer for the Trinidad and Tobago film festival in 2021.

Xavier is a graduate of the National Film and Television School and McGill University.

Director: Amanda Holiday
Production Company: Black Arts Video Project
Sponsor: Black Arts Video Project Arts Council of Great Britain
Producer: Jennie Russell

Simone Alexander
Zarina Bhimji
Sonia Boyce
Allan De Souza
Keith Piper

UK 1989
28 mins

Directors: Edward George, Trevor Mathison
Production Company: Black Audio Film Collective
Sponsor: Black Arts Video Project Arts Council of England
Producer: David Lawson
Script: Edward George
Photography: Mike Duffield
Editors: James Edmonds, Bill Ogden

UK 1995
22 mins

Director: Ayo Akingbade

UK 2020
6 mins

Art in the Making: The Black Arts Movement on Film + discussion
Wed 27 Oct 20:40
Woman with a Movie Camera Preview:
Anatomy of Wings + pre-recorded Q&A

Thu 28 Oct 18:15
Silent Cinema: Body and Soul + intro
Sun 31 Oct 14:20
20-22 Omega
Mon 1 Nov 20:40; Thu 4 Nov 18:10
Member Picks: Moonlight
Fri 5 Nov 18:10
African Odysseys: Black History Walks Presents: Cause for Concern: Equal Before the Law
Fri 5 Nov 18:30-21:30
African Odysseys: A Date with the Devil:
Darcus Howe’s Journey from Black Power
to Broadcasting

Sat 6 Nov 12:00-18:00
African Odysseys: Travels with my Camera:
Is This My Country? + White Tribe

Tue 9 Nov 18:10
African Odysseys: Trouble in Paradise + Darcus Howe: Son of Mine
Sun 14 Nov 15:30
Terror Vision: Tales from the Hood
Thu 25 Nov 20:40
Missing Believed Wiped Session 1:
The London Palladium Show

Sat 27 Nov 13:00
Missing Believed Wiped Session 2: Introducing ‘The Precious Things’: Holiday Startime
Sat 27 Nov 15:50
Seniors’ Free Matinee, in partnership with African Odysseys: Once Upon a Time… When We Were Colored + intro
Mon 29 Nov 14:00
Relaxed Screening: Petite Maman
Tue 30 Nov 18:15

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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