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Who Needs a Heart

Black Audio Film Collective

UK, 1991
78 minutes, Colour, Stereo, 4:3
Original format: SD video
Available formats: DVD / Digibeta tape / SD Digital file

Who Needs A Heart is a parable of political becoming and subjective transformation and remains BAFC’s most controversial film. Akin to a sophisticated home-movie history, a record of life on the fringes in London between 1965 and 1975, the film explores the forgotten history of British Black Power through the fictional lives of a group of friends caught up in the metamorphoses of the movement’s central figure; the counter-cultural anti-hero, activist and charismatic social bandit Michael Abdul Malik . Formerly known as Michael X and christened Michael De Freitas , he left England in 1970 and was tried and executed for his role in an unsolved murder in Trinidad in 1975. The film nevertheless holds him at a distance, tracing his career through contemporary TV and radio bulletins which counterpoint and parallel the lives of the group.

Dialogue is strictly a subsidiary element in Trevor Mathisons allusive, inventive sound design; narrative emerges in snatches, as Akomfrah flashes back from 1972 to the early 60s and then forwards, recalling the properties of the times in music, fashion and art. Who Needs a Heart is a largely silent film whose soundtrack of Eric Dolphy , Ornette Coleman, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Albert Ayler , Anthony Braxton, John Coltrane and the ritual music of the Llamas and Tibetan Monks of the Four Great Orders investigates the expressionist potential of music to create the conditions for the movement of images.