Modern Griots Review: Afro-Cinematique at ImageNation


largeAlthough at last night’s Afro-Cinematique showcase at ImageNation for five award-winning short films, which film student Lauren Elizabeth Brown curated, seemed to have no common theme, I would like to suggest that of the relationship between contact and alienation.

Despite some technical difficulties, I was glad to see these independent films were available and the audience had access to the filmmakers, where otherwise this would have been difficult to have in the past. The featured films were Say Grace Before Drowning, which I saw before, The Man in the Glass Case, White Space, Cherry Waves and Record/Play, the film I actually came to the event to see.

Directed by Nikyatu Jusu, Say Grace Before Drowning is the story of a swimmer Hawa, whose mother, Grace, an African refugee, comes to live with her estranged family, Hawa and her sister and husband. Not only was I pulled in by showing of the impact of war and rape on Grace’s mental state and her likely demise, but also the relationships between water, rebirth, female sexuality and motherhood. The next film, The Man in the Glass Case, directed by Maxwell Addae, inspired by Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger, follows the character James who is emotionally detached from everyone including his own family, but the tragic death of a family member may cause his hidden emotions to bubble up resulting in a violent act. The story, to me, is indicative of our own society, mainly because the character seems to be more invested in his work than the people around him, even until the end, and his detachment leads him to a violent situation. For speculative fiction lovers, Jusu also directed a film, Black Swan Theory, about a psychiatric casualty of war who is losing her sense of reality as she does “murder for hire” work,” and Addae is working on a film called Descry, about a world in which supernatural healing by touch is outlawed.

Maya Washington’s White Space may not appear speculative, but the story of a deaf performance poet taking the stage in front of a hearing audience and his ability to communicate with them transcending the “white space” between the the poet and the audience is kind of in that realm. As Washington said, it reveals a community that is often not visible in mainstream ableist culture and to show a human connection despite it. Another marginalized community is highlighted in Carey WilliamsCherry Waves about a lesbian street fighter who struggles with her overly religious mother, her own faith, her involvement in underground fighting and being with the woman she loves.

Lastly, the sci-fi love story, Record/Play, directed by Jesse Atlas, is about a man who is trying to keep in contact with a woman he loves, who is murdered in Bosnia, and all he has left is her audio tape recording. Replacing a chip in the recorder with one from a NASA VLF Receiver, he is able to transport in time and tries to stop her murder. Inspired by the 1974 film, The Conversation, Atlas wanted to create a film centered on the audio aspect of speculative film, not just the visual effects. I have written about the haunting of media before and it also reminds me of the Afrogalactic Postcards.  I liked this film the most, not only because it was a sci-fi work, but it summed up the night of two people who are away from each other, who are still able to keep in contact through this media device, complementing the notions of contact and alienation.

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