On Thursday, February 8, 2018, Creatively Speaking presented a curated series of films representing a visual interpretation of the themes in the award winning novel Citizen by Claudia Rankine. The screening was curated, produced and hosted by Michelle Materre and co-hosted by Terri Prettyman Bowles of Creatively Speaking. The event, titled "Citizen in Pictures", was held at and also co-hosted by St. John's University Manhattan Campus as part of a larger, three month long celebration of film, poetry and visual art inspired by or connecting to the themes of Rankine's novel.
The lineup for the evening included six films representing Rankine's Citizen and a number of the filmmakers and other creatives participated in an exciting and informative Q&A following the screenings. Preceding each individual screening Creatively Speaking's Michelle Materre and Terri Prettyman Bowles read excerpts from Citizen, personally selected to correspond with the themes explored in each film.
The evening began with Black America Again, directed by Bradford Young. The short acts as a long form music video for renowned musician Common’s 11th studio album by the same name. This is the first film directed by Young, a cinematographer known for his work on Selma and Arrival. Both Citizen and Black America Again are vital, parallel narratives of contemporary Black America. We were joined by the film's editor and sound designer, Marc Thomas, for the Q&A.
Dear Mr Shakespeare, directed by Shola Amoo is "an exploration of Shakespeare's intentions when writing Othello. This short film rapidly, yet comprehensively explores the play's racial themes in a historical and contemporary setting, drawing wider parallels between immigration and blackness in the UK today." (Amoo)
Charcoal, directed by Francesca Andre "captures the parallel stories of two black women and their lifelong journey to overcome internalized colorism, find self-acceptance and ultimately redemption. Despite the vast distances between them, these women both face a barrage of social messages from strangers and loved ones alike: That their darker complexion makes them less worthy of love, acceptance or respect. Charcoal exemplifies a valiant attempt to disrupt the generational cycle of self-hatred within communities of color."(Andre) Director Francesca Andre, along with actors Chengusoyane Kargbo and Lorry Francois, joined us for the Q&A following the screenings.
Diasporadical Trilogia by Blitz the Ambassador, consists of three narratives, Shine, Twins and Juju Girls, connected by themes of African Diaspora. "The series reflects the musical and visual narrative unique to Blitz’s personal experience. Based on his fourth studio album, Diasporadical, these films exemplify his travel between Accra, Salvador da Bahia and Brooklyn, NY. Blitz explains, 'The radical notion that no matter how fragmented the African Diaspora is, the influence of rhythm and spirituality remains largely the same.'" (Official description) Diasporadical offers itself as a study of intersections between the global African experience and ongoing struggle of its people across geographical divides."
Trans Lives Matter: Justice for Islan Nettles, a film by Seyi Adebanjo is "a powerful and moving document of a community vigil for Islan Nettles, a Transgender Womyn of Color who was beaten to death in front of a New York Police Department precinct in Harlem. few days after her death, Islan's family and friends held a vigil steps away from where she was murdered. With video and still images, Seyi Adebanjo documents the vigil and captures the love and support that the Transgender and Gender-Non-Conforming community brought to sustain each other and Islan's family during this emotional time." (Adebanjo)
Finally, Black Panther, a.k.a. Off The Pig, a compelling document of the Black Panther Party leadership in 1967 from the archives of Third World Newsreel ended the evening. This film contains a prison interview with Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton, as well as an interview with Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver, footage of the aftermath of the police assault against the Los Angeles Chapter headquarters, demonstrations to free Huey at Hutton Memorial Park and the Alameda County Courthouse and a recitation of the party's Ten-Point Platform by co-founder Bobby Seale. One of Newsreel's most widely distributed films, it was originally released as Off the Pig, and also features drawings from activist artist Emory Douglas. (www.twn.com)
The Q&A following the screening was hosted by Michelle Materre and Terri Prettyman Bowles. Marc Thomas, editor and sound designer for Black America Again, discussed the abstract nature and sometimes ethereal feel of the film and his sound design juxtaposed with the black and white realism of other scenes that included Common's live vocals. Francesca Andre, director of Charcoal, discussed their creative process, Andre's transition from photographer to filmmaker, and how the films themes related to Citizen.
by Gwynneth Shipley
photos by Christopher Webster
video by Trishala Kadam