Who Needs a Heart

Who Needs a Heart

Who Needs a Heart explores the tumultuous life of civil rights activist Michael X trough a fictionalized group of friends and lovers. The rise of the British Black Power Movement during the 1960s and 1970s forms the backdrop for a series of micro narratives around the controversial and enigmatic anti-hero.


"If uncovering the truth is impossible, then make an impossible film.”

John Akomfrah1


“The force of Akomfrah’s films lies in their singular ability to construct twilight worlds between multiple temporalities and realms of experience, situated in the wrinkles that join and disjoin future pasts and present futures, the intervals and the interruptions that tend to disrupt the time of domination and undo the knots and plots through which dominant histories are transmitted.”

Stoffel Debuysere2


“Akomfrah acknowledges that a precise form of political struggle is involved in recognizing that "the primal encounters that are our fantasies of a national history will never be validated by official British history." Thus it is important to give form to these fantasies, to express them in a way that allows viewers to identify with those struggles. Yet Akomfrah's designation of these moments as "primal encounters" also suggests that Black Audio knows them to be fictions, enabling fictions at the foundation of identity. Thus when he speaks of "an almost oedipal delight in desecrating what made the project possible in the first place," he suggests that to fetishize the person or movement that animates the film would be to get stuck in identity politics, rather than engaging in the difficult process of transformation. Black Audio's is more similar to a body of work that wills fictions and silences to fill in the place of dysfunctional memory. Who Needs a Heart? excavates events that occurred in nonverbal, perhaps unconscious registers, events that would not have made it into any record, even a confessional one.”

Laura U. Marks3

  • 1John Akomfrah, the 38th Robert Flaherty Seminar, Aurora, NY, August 11, 1993.
  • 2Stoffel Debuysere, "Signs of Struggle, Songs of Sorrow: Notes on the Politics of Uncertainty in the Films of John Akomfrah," Black Camera, 6, Nr. 2 (2015): 75.
  • 3Laura U. Marks, "Ghosts of stories: Black Audio Film Collective's Who needs a heart," CineAction, 36, 1996.
UPDATED ON 18.03.2022