by Aditi Jaganathan

“…haunting is one way in which abusive systems of power make themselves known and their impacts felt in everyday life, especially when they are supposedly over and done with…or when their oppressive nature is continuously denied” [1]

The layered history of such haunting was beautifully captured in the dialogue between George Amponsah’s “Hard Stop” and Ceddo Collective’s “the People’s Account”.  As part of June Givanni’s curation of a series of films by Black and Asian filmmakers, “The Time is Now?”[2], both texts were perceptibly haunted by waves of racialised state violence. Invoking the words of Baldwin, June Givanni gestured towards the atemporality of history-ghosts of the past haunting the present, history being created, held and embodied: “we are our history”.

Iterations of state violence in the present are redolent of, but markedly different from, racist spectres of the past. The residues of state brutality are held and contained in the spaces that have housed anti-racist uprisings, from Broadwater Farm-where Cynthia Jarrett was killed with impunity in 1985[3]-to the Tottenham estates of the present, where the hyper-surveillance of Black life transpired in the extrajudicial killing of Marc Duggan in 2011[4] again, with unequivocal impunity. The tautological nature of violence, imposed criminality, impunity and injustice was rendered visible in the inter-textual dialogue between both films.

Amponsah’s “Hard Stop” was reminiscent of elements of Burnett’s “Killer Sheep”, with the ever-present violence of state racism and precarity of Black life woven into the backdrop of an audio-visual landscape of deep intimacy. Nuanced layers of kinship, masculinity, spirituality, generativity and affect were beautifully filtered into the consciousness of spectators. The intimate form adopted by Amponsah breathed life to the power of story telling. Marc Duggan’s unlawful extrajudicial killing seamlessly gathered threads of connectivity, pain, beauty and humanity present both against, and in spite of, the grain of state terror. This was beautifully captured in the tenderness shared between Marcus Knox-Hooke and Curtis Henville, two of Marc Duggan’s closest friends.

Adopting a different form and style to “Hard Stop”, Ceddo’s multi-media documentary essay “A People’s Account”, provided a richly textured analysis of the dialectic of resistance and oppression within and against the black community, in the 1980s. This was fully captured through an audio-visual collage of archival footage, documents, newspaper cut-outs and a sonic of protest songs. The archival material utilised conveyed the idea of history being held and contained in the present. There was a resolute decolonial consciousness and evocation of pan-African sensibilities running throughout the text’s narrative.  Following the screening, Melenik Shabazz, one of the filmmakers, spoke to the collaborative nature of filmmaking in the 80s and its resonances with the Third Cinema movement, creating cultural products with revolutionary intentions. The film captured the coalesce of a genre-bending aesthetic and radical political objectives to create an audio-visual landscape with the purpose of raising consciousness thus propelling people to act against injustice.

The conversation between the two films illuminated the power of space in holding memories of violence; violence deferred and unresolved that then permeates into the presence of those who reside in such spaces. The common experience of racism, a racism broken in time, was held in dialogue between both texts. The screening poignantly illustrated the role of filmmaking in powerfully disrupting the postcolonial cultural amnesia that cripples Britain. Both texts spoke to the power of filmmaking to incite a radical and urgent culture of change, change rooted in the nuanced history of the past and informed by a revolutionary poetic of the future. It was an invocation of memory, memories of lives lost and remembered, memories of lifeworlds erased and negated, memories of truths that are buried in the debris of state violence. By invoking memory, we remember, by remembering we cannot forget, and by not forgetting we move to change. The time to learn, explore and create has always been now.

[1] Gordon, A. 2011. “Some Thoughts on Haunting and Futurity”. Borderlands 10(2)

[2] Nottingham Contemporary Arts Centre. 2017 “The Time is Now?”

[3] Tottenham Rights. 2014. “The Broadwater Farm Uprising”

[4] Okolosie L. 2016. “The Hard Stop is a refresing representation of black Rbitish men”