Although 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.
Last week I read Caribbean-American Paule Marshall’s novel, Brown Girl Brownstones, and to put it simply, I was blown away. It definitely on par with The Invisible Man. It is a coming of age story that follows a Bajan (Barbados)- American girl, Selina Boyce, who is finding her own path amidst the destruction of her family in World War II-era Brooklyn, New York. Selina and her sister, Ina, are caught between their mother, Silla, a realist who thirsts for finding her place in America through property ownership, and their father, Deighton, a dreamer inundated by his own dreams and longing to return home to Barbados where he has a piece of land there. Although this book is not considered a piece of speculative fiction, Marshall’s use of figurative language, especially personification, in her descriptions of the scenery and the characters’ thoughts and feelings verges on the fantastical. Marshall blurs the line between history, memory, dreams and fantasy throughout Brown Girl Brownstones.
The main character of Selina is a visionary outsider figure, much like the nameless character in The Invisible Man and theme in African diaspora tradition. In ways she is a prophetic and clairvoyant character. She seems to see things that are beyond the scope of “reality.” Even the novel matches her prophetic nature through foreshadowing, using quotations from the later part of the book in the earlier part. Selina’s name means heavenly, stems from the moon goddess Selene, and coincidentally is an anagram of aliens. It works in the novel because Seline has an ancient and dark wise spirit, confronting the alienation and disillusionment she feels in her community and her urge to find her own place to belong (home).