Friday Films > Isaac Julien

Isaac Julien
Looking for Langston 1989/2016
16mm film, black and white, sound; 44:29 min.
Museum purchase, 2018.5

Friday, Feb 26, 2021 - 5:00 PM

Join us every last Friday of the month for live screenings of film and video works from the Museum’s permanent collection. This month, we will present Isaac Julien's Looking for Langston.

One of Julien’s earliest films, Looking for Langston, explores the life of Black poet Langston Hughes (1902–1967) and the Harlem Renaissance. Combining archival material with dreamlike, surrealist scenes, the film also addresses Julien’s own experiences and those of his peers: the lives of Black artists, the complexities of gay desire, and the AIDS epidemic. Against an oppressive and violent backdrop, Julien’s imagined dance hall is a kind of escape, one that might be found in either a 1920s speakeasy in Harlem or a 1980s gay club in London. 

His cinematic style draws on a range of source material, from the homoerotic photographs of George Platt Lynes or Robert Mapplethorpe to the work of Black photographers James Van Der Zee and Roy DeCarava . The varied narration of the film also intertwines Hughes’s words with those of Bruce Nugent and Essex Hemphill. Examining the relationships among figures from distant historical moments, Julien creates a complex world for Black, gay life through photography, film, and language.

The film will be presented for free on Friday, February 27, at 5:00 PM PST. Find the livestream on our YouTube channel and Facebook page.