Isaac Julien (British b.1960) is best known as an English filmmaker. He is also known for his work as an installation artist. Julien graduated in 1984 from Central Saint Martin’s School of Art, where his studies focused on painting and Fine Art film. Looking for Langston is a film he made in 1989 that is set in Harlem, NY, during the Harlem Renaissancein the 1920s. The film explores and celebrates black identify and gay identity, which are themes Julien’s work often explores, as the artist himself is a gay, black man. This film gained Julien his first following as an artist, a following that grew in 1991 with Julien’s film Young Soul Rebels, which was awarded the Semaine de la Critique prize at the Cannes Film Festival for best film.
One of Julien’s primary goals as an artist is to tear down the walls that exist between different artistic media such as film, music, painting, theater, photography, and sculpture; he aims to use them in harmony in order to create a compelling visual narrative. These are not the only barriers Julien seeks to tear down. He also fearlessly explores barriers that exist in terms of class, sexuality, and culture. For example, his documentary, BaadAsssss Cinema, explores the phenomenon known as blaxploitation in film.
Julien founded the Sankofa Film and Video Collective in 1983, and became a founding member of Normal Films in 1999. In 2001, Julien receive a nomination for the Turner Prize. Julien is the 2003 recipient of the Kunst FilmBiennale in Cologne for Baltimore. In 2008, Derek received various awards, including the Special Teddy from the Berlin International Film Festival, the Documentary Prize from the 34th Seattle International Film Festival, and the Best Documentary award from the Milan International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Today, Julien lives and works in London, where he has been a professor at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design since 2009.