Looking for Langston (1989), directed by Isaac Julien

(Note: This article has been cross-posted in Ars Poetica, and Athiest Cinema.)

I ran across this at the library. Langston Hughes was an African-American poet during what has come to be called the Harlem Renaissance.

This one-hour tribute to Hughes is very poetic in itself. There is no dialogue between the actors, only poems spoken and music played over their movements. It was shot beautifully in black and white while the camera moved lovingly and seductively over the characters and landscapes. It also utilized real vintage film footage and photographs of Hughes. It has some astoundingly beautiful men in it, and is mildly homoerotic (but not so much as to make one unfamiliar with homoeroticism become uncomfortable).

I can’t say that it was the best film ever, but it is a beautiful and poetic work worth seeing.

Here are two of Langston’s poems:

Still Here

I’ve been scarred and battered.
My hopes the wind done shattered,
Snow has friz me,
Sun has baked me,

Looks like between ‘em they done
Try to make me

Stop laughin’, stop loving’, stop living’ –
But I don’t care!
I’m still here!

- Langston Hughes


Where is the Jim Crow section
On this merry-go-round,
Mister, cause I want to ride?
Down South where I come from
White and colored
Can't sit side by side.
Down South on the train
There's a Jim Crow car.
On the bus we're put in the back—
But there ain't no back
To a merry-go-round!
Where's the horse
For a kid that's black?

- Langston Hughes

I’m also attaching some of his poems in MP3 format, as read by William Warfield.

Tags: African-American, Cinema, Documentary, Film, Harlem, Langston-Hughes, Movie, Poem, Poetry

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