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Artist's Choice Screenings: Young Soul Rebels

#AlbertaWhittle

"Carmen Jones, Poetic Justice and Young Soul Rebels are films which have intrigued me since childhood and continue to affect the language(s) I weave through my own practice. Each of these films defies cinematic expectations of race, gender and sexuality, deftly layering entanglements of love, desire, grief, trauma and recovery amidst political strife as worthy and multiple." Alberta Whittle


Set in 1977 London over the weekend of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, artist Isaac Julien’s 1991 feature debut Young Soul Rebels is an energetic and vibrant work which still feels truly radical today. The film’s approach to race, sexuality and class presents ideas which are only now (or still have yet to be) embraced by mainstream cinema and we are over the moon to be presenting this extraordinary film in wonderful 35mm.

Best friends Caz (Mo Sesay) and Chris (Valentine Nonyela) are young, black and hip and run a pirate radio station, enthusiastically spreading soul music throughout London at a truly divided time; Union Jacks are hung from multi-storey flats, swastikas are daubed on walls, while punks rail against the monarchy and gay men meet after dark in a local park. The murder of a close friend gives the film a loose thriller narrative, but Julien uses this as a springboard to delve deep into ideas of British national identity and, like all good period pieces, this film is as much about contemporary society as it is its 1977 setting.

While the film is steeped in a very tangible sense of danger, Young Soul Rebels presents to us a world where fashion, music, drugs and youth culture intersect thrillingly, and, in giving us characters that are an absolute joy to spend time in the company of, ultimately looks to the future as much as it looks at the past.