Black Audio Film Collective

Handsworth Songs (1986)

The Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC) was founded in 1982 by seven undergraduates in Sociology and Fine Art: John Akomfrah, Lina Gopaul, Avril Johnson, Reece Auguiste, Trevor Mathison, Edward George and Claire Johnson, who left in 1985 and was replaced by David Lawson. The collective formally dissolved in 1998.

In many ways, BAFC were a unique group. Based initially in east, and later north, London, they produced internationally acclaimed, award winning slide-tape texts, films and videos; far more than any other artist group of the time. These explorations of belonging and intimacy combined a montage aesthetic with personal reflection to invent a new genre of moving image that challenged traditions of British documentary and drama, and profoundly influenced contemporary avant-garde film-makers and theorists.

In the 1980s, the collective were known as exceptional curators, whose film courses, seminar series and screening programmes brought avant-garde cinema, from India, Brazil, Cuba, Senegal and the USA, to London audiences for the first time. The desire to build an independent cineculture remained constant through the group¹s numerous theoretical, critical, speculative and fictional writings. Unlike other moving image artists, the collective was not restricted to a single cultural context, but operated within and between the cultural spaces of the international film festival, the art gallery and broadcast television.

The emergence of the group coincided with the racial repositioning of the black presence in British public life in the early 80s. As one of a number of black film groups the collective became part of Britain's film workshop movement in 1984. Handsworth Songs (1986), Twilight City (1987), Testament (1988), The Mysteries of July (1991) and Who needs a Heart (1991) won them a series of international awards. The Black Audio Film Collective body of work compromises a powerful example of new ways of engaging with the past, present and possible future of black popular and political culture in Britain.