The only feature by Julien, who immediately displays political ambitions: a daring attempt to reconcile skinhead culture and black culture through a love story between two young men.
Young Soul Rebels is Isaac Julien’s only foray into full-length fiction film so far. Set in the London of 1977, the film tells the story of Mo and Chris, DJs on a pirate radio station. When a gay man is murdered in a London park, Chris is arrested for the crime. Julien imagines the epochal year of 1977, when Pink Rock exploded into public consciousness and Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Silver Jubilee, in terms of its hybrid qualities. Most intriguing is the film’s examination of the popular cultural upheavals of ‘77 from the perspective of Black Soul culture rather than from the predominantly white, working-class Punk rock perspective. It’s an approach that’s partly justified by the time itself, given the centrality of race riots to the period, the overlap between punk and reggae and the solidarity between anti-fascist campaigners and musicians. Young Soul Rebels might now be seen as the missing link between the impressionist, avant-garde fury of Derke Jarman’s films Jubilee and The Last of England and Stephen Frears and Hanif Kureishi’s chronicling of metropolitan micro-communities in My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. But the film is equally a heady and stylish evocation of, as well as a lament for the utopian possibilities contained in the moment, well expressed in the film’s scrupulous choice of period music, including X-Ray Spex, Parliament and Junior Murvin. —Rotterdam Film Festival
Isaac Julien (born 1960, London, England) is an installation artist and filmmaker.
Julien graduated from St Martin’s School of Art in 1985, where he studied painting and fine art film. He founded Sankofa Film and Video Collective, and was a founder member of Normal Films in 1999.
Julien came to prominence in the film world with his 1989 drama-documentary Looking for Langston, gaining a cult following with this poetic exploration of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. This following was expanded in 1991 when his film Young Soul Rebels won the Semaine de la Critique prize for best film at the Cannes Film Festival.
One of the objectives of Julien’s work is to break down the barriers that exist between different artistic disciplines, drawing from and commenting on film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting and sculpture, and uniting these to construct a powerfully visual narrative. Thematically, much of his work directly relates to experiences… read more