Looking for Langston

Looking for Langston

In this lyrical and poetic consideration of the life of revered Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, award-winning British filmmaker Isaac Julien invokes Hughes as a black gay cultural icon, against an impressionistic, atmospheric setting that parallels a Harlem speakeasy of the 1920s with an 80s London nightclub. Extracts from Hughes’s poetry are interwoven with the work of cultural figures from the 1920s and beyond, including black poets Essex Hemphill and Bruce Nugent, and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, constructing a fascinating, multilayered narrative. Julien explores the ambiguous sexual subtexts of a period of rich artistic expression, and the enduring cultural significance of these pioneers’ work. Shot in black and white by a female gaze (that of Nina Kellgren), the film combines archival footage with newly staged set pieces, fantasy sequences, and an imagined love story. The result is a beautiful and ultimately celebratory piece about artistic expression and the nature of black gay desire.
Screening Schedule

No physical screenings scheduled.

Direction: Isaac Julien
Script: Isaac Julien
Cinematography: Nina Kellgren
Editing: Robert Hargreaves
Sound: Martin Jackson, Ronald Bailey
Music: Wayson Jones, Trevor Mathison, Peter Spencer
Actors: Ben Ellison, Matthew Baidoo, Akim Mogaji, John Wilson, Dencil Williams, Guy Burgess, James Dublin, Harry Donaldson
Production: Sankofa Film & Video
Producers: Nadine Marsh-Edwards
Costumes: Robert Worley
Make Up: Hilary Steinberg
Format: ProRes
Color: B&W
Production Country: UK
Production Year: 1989
Duration: 47'
Contact: Isaac Julien Studio
Awards/Distinctions: Teddy Award – Berlin IFF 1989
The screening is followed by a discussion with Rico Johnson-Sinclair, Founder of the CineQ Festival and Inclusion Consultant for festivals like the Berlinale and the Cannes iFF.

Isaac Julien


1989 Looking for Langston
1991 Young Soul Rebels (fiction)
1994 The Darker Side of Black
2003 Baltimore (short)
2008 Derek 2010 Better Life (fiction)
2013 Playtime (fiction)
2019 30/30 Vision: 3 Decades of Strand Releasing