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Isaac Julien

Isaac Julien

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Also Known As: Died:
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Birth Place: East London, England, GB Profession: Director ... director documentarian executive film professor painter
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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 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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