Archive of films Nine Muses / The Nine Muses

United Kingdom / Ghana
2010, 92 min

Section: Another View
Year: 2011

John Akomfrah has created a documentary essay about immigrants of different races who came to Britain after the Second World War. In this experimental film he combines archive material and footage of Alaska’s winter wilderness with music from different sources and aphorisms by authors drawn from different cultural spheres.


John Akomfrah has created a documentary essay about immigrants of different races who came to Britain after the Second World War. In his film he combines archive material with shots of the Alaskan winter wilderness. Aphorisms from Homer, Shakespeare, and Joyce – as well as from authors of different cultural spheres (e.g. Chinese poet Li Po) – give a new dimension to the contemplative passing images. The soundtrack has a corresponding diversity, with works by Franz Schubert, Lisa Gerrard, and even Indian folk melodies. The individual film chapters are dedicated to the nine Muses, while a determining role is played by their mother Mnemosyne, the personification of memory in Greek mythology. And it is she who is invoked again and again by means of associative images, in which the harmonizing element of water plays a key role. This does not, however, detract from the urgency of the images of foreigners in a foreign land, burdened by feelings of alienation, subjection, and endless drudgery in authoritarian white society.

About the director

John Akomfrah

John Akomfrah (b. 1957, Accra, Ghana) hails from a family of Ghanaian political activists. He grew up in London and graduated in sociology from Portsmouth Polytechnic (1982). He cofounded the London media outfit Black Audio Film Collective, a seminal cine-cultural workshop where he directed a broad range of work. In 1986 he debuted with the controversial documentary Handsworth Songs, a film that explores the historical experience of blacks in British society. He also shot other thematically similar, engagé movies, both fiction and documentary, including Testament (1988), Who Needs a Heart? (1991), and Seven Songs for Malcolm X (1993), and had success in television (Dr. Martin Luther King: Days of Hope, 1997; The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong, 1999). In 2008 he was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) for his services to the film industry.


Cactus Three
440 Lafayette st., 10003, New York
United States of America
Tel: +1 212 674 140 0
Fax: +1 212 674 140 0
E-mail: [email protected]

Smoking Dogs Films
26 Shacklewell Lane, E8 2EZ, London
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 207 249 664 4
E-mail: [email protected]

About the film

Color, HD CAM

Section: Another View
Director: John Akomfrah
Screenplay: John Akomfrah
Dir. of Photography: Dewald Aukema
Music: Trevor Mathison
Editor: Mikka Leskinen, Ben Hunt
Producer: Lina Gopaul
Production: Smoking Dogs Films
Cast: Trevor Mathison, David Lawson, John Akomfrah
Contact: Cactus Three, Smoking Dogs Films

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