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|Born||21 February 1960|
East End of London, England
|Occupation||Installation artist and filmmaker|
|Known for||Looking For Langston (1989)|
Julien was born in the East End of London, one of the five children of his parents, who had migrated to Britain from St Lucia. He graduated in 1985 from Saint Martin's School of Art, where he studied painting and fine art film. He co-founded Sankofa Film and Video Collective in 1983, and was a founding member of Normal Films in 1991.
In 1980, Julien organised the Sankofa Film and Video Collective with Martina Attille, Maureen Blackwood, Nadine Marsh-Edwards, and Robert Crusz in response to the social unrest in Britain. Sankofa was "dedicated to developing an independent black film culture in the areas of production, exhibition and audience". He received a BA in fine-art film from Central Saint Martins School of Art, London (1984) where he worked alongside artists including Sandra Lahire, Malcolm Le Grice, Lis Rhodes, Vera Neubauer, Tina Keane and completed his postdoctoral studies at Les entrepreneurs de l'audiovisuel européen, Brussels (1989).
Julien came to prominence in the film world with his 1989 drama-documentary Looking for Langston, gaining a cult following with this poetic exploration Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance. This following was expanded when his film Young Soul Rebels won the Semaine de la Critique prize for best film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991.
One of the objectives of Julien's work is to break down the barriers that exist between different artistic disciplines, drawing from and commenting on film, dance, photography, music, theatre, painting and sculpture, and uniting these to construct a powerfully visual narrative. Thematically, much of his work directly relates to experiences of black and gay identity (he is himself gay), including issues of class, sexuality, and artistic and cultural history. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2001, and in 2003 he won the Grand Jury Prize at the Kunstfilm Biennale in Cologne for his single screen version of Baltimore. Julien is also a documentary filmmaker - his work in this genre includes BaadAsssss Cinema, a film on the history and influence of blaxploitation cinema.
Julien readily cites cultural theorist and sociologist Stuart Hall as an important influence on his filmmaking. Hall narrates a portion of Looking for Langston. Julien involves Hall in his work once more in the 1996 film Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask, which tells the story of Frantz Fanon, the theorist and psychiatrist from Martinique. As a member of the Sankofa Film and Video Collective, Julien made The Passion of Remembrance (1986), "which attempts to deal with the difficulties of constructing a documentary history of black political experience by foregrounding questions of chauvinism and homophobia."
Julien currently divides his time, living and working in London, England and Santa Cruz, California.
He was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University's Departments of Afro-American and Visual Environmental Studies, and was a visiting seminar leader in the MFA Art Practice programme at the School of Visual Arts, and a visiting professor at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York City. He was also a research fellow at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and in September 2009 he became a professor at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. In 2018, Julien joined UC Santa Cruz where he is the distinguished professor of the arts. Julien is a patron of the Live Art Development Agency.