Looking for Langston: A Meditation on Langston Hughes (1901-1967) and the Harlem Renaissance

by Isaac Julien

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Looking for Langston is a lyrical exploration – and recreation – of the private world of poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist Langston Hughes (1901 – 1967) and his fellow black artists from the Harlem Renaissance.

This self-described meditation on the life of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes addresses the possible, possibly imagined, life of the author as a gay man. Both documentary and fantasy, it blends archival footage with black and white paeans to a life that might have been–a Harlem nightclub from the 1920s, a London nightspot from the late eighties, various dream sequences–foregrounding gay sexual desire, constructed of a mélange of materials. Looking for Langston is not a mainstream film, but a short film, an avant-garde film, a gay film, and a black British film. Indeed, the prospect of viewing the film can be an off-putting one, considering its competing narrative lines as documentary, reclamation of an aspect of black history, rumination on the AIDS crisis, or pure fantasy.

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