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Twilight City and the birth of global London
Malini Guha

This chapter complicates the notion of the ‘outsider’ film through an analysis of Black Audio Film Collective’s Twilight City (1989). An essay film about the birth of a new, global London, Twilight City’s central project involves a depiction of London from ‘outside in’. If the nation’s imperial history and its enduring legacies rendered most visibly in form of migration are generally considered to be an ‘outsider’ or external experience in the British context, Twilight City positions these histories as constitutive components of the rise of global London. As such, this is a film that privileges an ‘insider/outsider’ position, one that oscillates in deliberately unsettling ways between the two. The central conceit of the film concerns a daughter who responds to a letter from her mother, who left London for Dominica thirty-five years ago and now longs to return. The film’s structure already poses a complex ‘insider/outsider’ relationship between one who never left and the other who wants to come back after a lengthy period away. Moreover, in utilising archival imagery, inserts of historical monuments and interviews that are interwoven in classic essayistic fashion, Twilight City activates what Homi Bhabha refers to as the ‘past-present’. This chapter argues Twilight City situates itself in exactly this transitional phase by staging a series of entanglements between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ that suggests the impossibility of viewing the city’s global future without consideration of a host of previous ‘Londons’.

in Global London on screen
Cinematic streaming and the digital happening in globalising London
Michael A. Unger
Keith B. Wagner

As a cinematic-cum-multimodal audio-visual-orbital feat, livestreaming is nothing less than presentational wizardry and a narrative storytelling that works against-the-clock. This type of filmmaking is embodied as premise and constraint in Woody Harrelson’s directorial debut Lost in London (2017). This feature film creates what is referred to as a digital ‘happening’: it situates the profilmic event of shooting a long-take film with the technological caveat that one camera records the entire film as it develops in real time. This single long take premise also required that Lost in London be shot entirely on location and set in the theatre district of London in the early morning of 20 January 2017, while streamed simultaneously into 550 theatres in the United States and one in London. Lost in London’s globality is unmistakable. Its placeness and demographic richness become key tropes to ponder and that complement and reinforce London’s multicultural supremacy. This chapter argues Harrelson’s honest approach to London’s superdiversity in this film is not just an American filmmaker’s appropriation of this global city’s geography but a film that expands London’s global status as a tourist but also multicultural hotspot, unparalleled in our world system of cities. Thus, globalisation in practice is detachable and mediated in Lost in London’s dense material and urban fabric: both in architectural form and in the cast and ethos of its characters found on screen. Most important, it showcases liveness as a performative interaction between filmmaker and viewer to create a cinematic artifact – a one-off moment – that captures both event and experience but also culture and geography with aplomb.

in Global London on screen
British East/South-East Asian cinema and Lilting
Victor Fan

In comparison with other metropolitan cities, London is rarely featured in Hong Kong cinema. The only exceptions are two films made by British Chinese director Leong Po-chih, who was born in the UK in 1939, raised in London and trained at the BBC. This chapter examines two films made by Leong in the 1980s that were set in London: Jingleon peipaa (1984) and Ping Pong (1986). In both films, London is featured not as a fantastical cosmopolitan wonderland but as a site of brute reality. On the one hand, London is the linguistic, cultural and sociopolitical root of British Chinese and middle-class, young and Anglicised Hong Kongers. On the other, it is also a site of deceit, violence and subjectival confusion, which actively occupies and colonises the subjectivity of these individuals, yet ostensibly ostracises them as the others. This chapter argues that London is featured in Leong Po-chih’s films not as a crystallisation of cosmopolitanism. Instead, it is best understood as a site where the illusion of cosmopolitanism is contested, negotiated, deconstructed and reconfigured in the eyes of the colonised subjects. The chapter’s argument is constructed by first contextualising and historicising what London was – and to some extent, still is – for British Chinese and Hong Kongers during the 1980s. The chapter also conducts a close comparative analysis of these two films, with reference to other representations of London in Hong Kong cinema, including Lee Chi-ngai’s Daoma ji (2014), which features London as a fantasy for its Mainland Chinese audience.

in Global London on screen
Justin A. Joyce

Justin A. Joyce introduces the ninth volume of James Baldwin Review with a discussion of I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1982), “The Uses of the Blues” (1964), Florida, and Fox News.

James Baldwin Review
Emily Rosamond

Social media platforms present life as a networked space of possibility, where one chance encounter with a former colleague or contact might open new opportunities and life paths. This chapter shows how the desire for serendipity reworks neoliberal myths of entrepreneurship while further enriching those who control the mapping of social networks.

in Clickbait capitalism
Selma, 1963
Davis W. Houck

1963 was a defining year in James Baldwin’s life as a public intellectual. Beginning in January with a trip to Jackson, Mississippi, and closing at a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee conference in Washington, DC, Baldwin often frequented the speaking rostrum. On October 7, he spoke at a Freedom Day event organized by SNCC’s Jim Forman in Selma, Alabama. That speech, recorded by a private citizen and heretofore unremarked upon, can be productively read as part of Baldwin’s ongoing radicalization, away from a solution that privileged rhetorical (re)invention and toward destructive and collective acts designed to subvert American capitalism. At another register, Baldwin’s speech functioned as an important culmination to an eight-month campaign to bring voting rights—and the federal government—to Dallas County, Alabama.

James Baldwin Review
Mónica Martín

This chapter analyses Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men as an example of cinematic cosmopolitan utopianism in the light of Tom Moylan’s and Ruth Levitas’s conception of utopia, and Ulrich Beck’s and Gerard Delanty’s critical cosmopolitanism. In contrast to post-9/11 films like I Am Legend, War of the Worlds and Cloverfield, in which apocalyptic circumstances are imputable to zombie or monstrous Others, Children of Men engages in a speculative critique of nonsustainable global neoliberalism that rejects alien scapegoats. Cuarón’s film portrays a dystopian 2027 London afflicted by armed violence, pollution, anti-immigration policies and governmental surveillance. One of the most recognisable global cities in the world, the British capital in the film stands for an ecocidal neoliberal society that has turned infertile and is now unable to give birth to future generations. Yet, Children of Men takes distance from the anti-utopian bias of late twentieth-century cultural texts and social theories –a demise of utopian thinking fostered, among other causes, by the postmodern questioning of grand narratives of progress, utopia’s equation with totalitarian projects, its cooptation by individualist market logics and celebratory end-of-history capitalist discourses, and the ‘disengaged imagination’ of global neoliberal elites. This chapter argues that Children of Men hopes and asks for a cosmopolitan remapping of the global beyond the frameworks provided by anti-utopia, nation, risk and neoliberalism.

in Global London on screen
James Baldwin’s Encounter with the BBC in 1963
Robert J. Corber

The author reviews the recently released short film The Baldwin Archives (Laura Seay, 2022), and argues that, in restaging the most important moments of Baldwin’s 1963 interview for the BBC television program Bookstand, it helps us understand better Baldwin’s belief that people had a moral obligation “to deal with other people as though they were simply human beings.” Following the rise of the Black Power movement in the mid-1960s, this belief contributed to Baldwin’s marginalization by a younger generation of Black activists who identified it with a lack of militancy that they attributed to his gender and sexual nonconformity. But in focusing on the moments in the BBC interview where Baldwin elaborated his understanding of this obligation, The Baldwin Archives enables us to grasp its radicalism more fully.

James Baldwin Review
James Baldwin and The Evidence of Things Not Seen
Holly Lowe Jones

This article illustrates the multi-generational influence of Baldwin’s The Evidence of Things Not Seen on my path as a Black scholar and draws connections between representation, identity, kinship, and the interdependence of Black writers in the fight for social justice. Through tracing Baldwin’s working relationship with my father, former editor of Playboy magazine Walter Lowe Jr., I hope to illuminate the relational underpinnings of Baldwin’s work on the Atlanta child murders, thereby foregrounding the complexities of Black life. This article recognizes Baldwin’s work in Evidence as more than just a new-wave logistical, strategic, textual model of resistance but also as a mode of artistic production arising from a tradition that is deeply felt, collaborative, improvisational, and ancestrally rooted.

James Baldwin Review
Aki Kaurismäki’s I Hired a Contract Killer as transnational representation of local London
Claire Monk

This chapter argues Aki Kaurismäki’s I Hired a Contract Killer (1990) clearly exploits the dramatic qualities of transitional, marginal territories in East London in particular. Kaurismäki’s film marks East London as a strange, contemporary Gothic space; a doom-laden, wild and desolate urban landscape on the verge of renewal and, as we now know, eventual gentrification. The film depicts the eastern side of the city of London on the threshold of change, lurching from post-industrial slumber towards the embrace of a global economy, but also still replete with mythology. The film uses this dense and complex space to tell a story about place and displacement; about liminality or ‘betwixt-and-betweeness’; about the thresholds of urban space, urban experience and urban identity. It exploits contemporary anxieties concerning the breakdown of individual and national spatial boundaries as it explores the problematic relationships that might come to exist between rootless individuals located within post-industrial urban societies and their immediate material environments. The chapter demonstrates how John Ebden’s production design exploits the mythical and enduring idea of the East End of London as a discursive territory. The film seems to suggest that ‘outcast’ East London is finding it hard to shake its image of danger, decadence and decay, even in a period of economic and sociocultural transition and (post)modernisation in an increasingly global world.

in Global London on screen