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Isaac Julien

Isaac Julien

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Young Soul Rebels DVD Find out why "Young Soul Rebels" (1991) won the 1991 Critics' Week Prize at... more info $19.99was $19.99 Buy Now

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: East London, England, GB Profession: director, documentarian, executive, film professor, painter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

This British black independent filmmaker's meditation on poet Langston Hughes, "Looking For Langston" (1989), gained notoriety when it was shown at the New York Film Festival because of its focus on the poet's homosexuality. In 1983, the art-student-turned-filmmaker founded Sankofa Film and Video with three other black film students and subsequently directed a series of short films.Julien's first fiction feature, "Young Soul Rebels" (1991), concerned two lifelong friends--one a slightly effeminate, heterosexual mulatto, the other a macho, homosexual black man--who operate a pirate radio station in the late 1970s. The film, which won the Critics Week Prize at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, examined the early punk-rock era and featured a murder mystery subplot. Much of Julien's work has explored the tensions and angst of the outsider within a majority culture: whether it be a black torn from his own cultural anthropology by slavery, or a gay man in a heterosexual world or some combination of the two. His first short was "Who Killed Colin Roach?" (1983) and he followed with the heralded "The Passion of Remembrance" (1986, made in collaboration with Maureen Blackwood) which examined the concerns of...

This British black independent filmmaker's meditation on poet Langston Hughes, "Looking For Langston" (1989), gained notoriety when it was shown at the New York Film Festival because of its focus on the poet's homosexuality. In 1983, the art-student-turned-filmmaker founded Sankofa Film and Video with three other black film students and subsequently directed a series of short films.

Julien's first fiction feature, "Young Soul Rebels" (1991), concerned two lifelong friends--one a slightly effeminate, heterosexual mulatto, the other a macho, homosexual black man--who operate a pirate radio station in the late 1970s. The film, which won the Critics Week Prize at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, examined the early punk-rock era and featured a murder mystery subplot. Much of Julien's work has explored the tensions and angst of the outsider within a majority culture: whether it be a black torn from his own cultural anthropology by slavery, or a gay man in a heterosexual world or some combination of the two. His first short was "Who Killed Colin Roach?" (1983) and he followed with the heralded "The Passion of Remembrance" (1986, made in collaboration with Maureen Blackwood) which examined the concerns of British black youths. He stepped aside from his own filmmaking to serve as assistant director on "Dreaming Rivers" (1988), but was back at the helm with "Looking for Langston". The gays in the black world theme was also prevalent in "A Darker Side of Black", the 1993 documentary which focused on homophobia in rap and reggae music. In 1995, Julien seemingly stepped away from his usual themes with "That's Rush!", a documentary about the right wing radio and TV host Rush Limbaugh. (Like much of the director's work, it aired in the USA on PBS.) That same year, Julien participated as senior producer in "The Question of Equality" (PBS), a dialogue on the place of gays and lesbians within the civil rights movement. "Frantz Falon: Black Skin, White Mask" (1996) profiled the Caribbean-born psychiatrist whose book, "The Wretched of the Earth", is called "the bible of the decolonialization movement" in Africa and whose works are read in both the Third World and by political activists throughout the world.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Derek (2008)
3.
  That Rush! (1995) Director
4.
  Darker Side of Black, A (1994) Director
5.
6.
  Attendant, The (1992) Director
7.
  Young Soul Rebels (1991) Director
8.
  Looking For Langston (1990) Director
9.
  Media Fictions (1987) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Black Nations/Queer Nations (1995) Himself
2.
 Daddy and the Muscle Academy (1992) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Grew up in the Bow district of East London
1983:
Co-founded Sankofa Film and Video, a Channel 4-funded collective of young black filmmakers
1983:
Directed first short film, "Who Killed Colin Roach?"
1984:
First short film produced by Sankofa, "Territories"
1986:
Co-directed feature, "The Passion of Remembrance", with Maureen Blackwood
1987:
Served as assistant director on "Dreaming Rivers"
1989:
Directed experimental short, "Looking For Langston"
1989:
Directed Peter Gabriel music video, "Shaking the Tree"
1991:
"Young Soul Rebels", solo feature debut, selected to open Critics Week at Cannes Film Festival
1994:
Lived in NYC
1995:
Directed "That Rush!", a look at the Rush Limbaugh phenomenon
1996:
Made documentary on famed revolutionary icon Frantz Fanon, "Black Skin, White Mask"
1999:
Created the film installation "The Long Road to Mazatlan"; has been displayed at galleries throughout the world
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

St Martin's School of Art: -
St Martin's School of Art: -

Notes

Sankofa Film and Video is named for a mythical Ghanaian bird that looks into the past to prepare for the future.

In 2000, Julien was visting lecturer in Afro-American Studies at Harvard University.

"It's not surprising that some people find Julien's work provocative. He is black and gay and makes his race and sexual orientation an integral part of his work. The director ... has come to expect, and perhaps even enjoy, the controversy his films generate: 'It's better than being boring, isn't it?'" --Gerard Raymond in Premiere, January 1992.

"Clubs are pretty important places for my kind of cinema. That's where I have learned the most about sex, race, class, and desires.

In the 70s, clubs were a relatively new phenomenon, where different groups--black, white, straight, and gay--were brought together into he same space because of the music." --Isaac Julien to Premiere, January 1992.

"The main reason for making the film ('Young Soul Rebels') was to celebrate cultural differences in a fun way. It also speaks to the danger of keeping secret your sexual orientation. ... The other major reason for making the film was the music of the era. It was the time of the Soul Boy, Soul Girl movement, of Roy Ayers and 'Runnin' Away,' which I use as a theme song--referring to running away from our responsibilities, of people running away from each aother and of the need to seek your own cultural identity." --Julien quoted in Los Angeles Times, December 6, 1991.

"I'm very interested in breaking the rules of television and cinema. Everything that gets funded in Britain more or less gets funded through television ... Whether something is drama or documentary becomes sort of a fiction in the sense that it becomes an alibi, really, for regulating oneself to a fixed set of definitions about what the possibilities of making films can be." --Julien to Filmmaker, Winter 1997.

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