Many Thousands Gone (2015)
Better in concept than in specifics. Juxtaposing street scenes in NYC and Brazil with emphasis on dance, silent film with improv music added after, this all sounds great. What we get: so-so photography with blowy sounds in the audio, reminiscent of that grating windbag noise on Nine Inch Nails “A Warm Place”.
Flutey frequencies that bugged me even more than the windy blowing, but the middle half was all percussion and the photography seems to have improved even if the subject matter (group dance routines in Jamaica and New York) is less inherently interesting, so we’ll call it even.
Fluid Frontiers (2017)
Short poems and segments about slavery and blackness, read to us on camera, the book covers visible. Detroit and Southern Ontario, the split locations in these films getting closer together each time.
Sicinski in Mubi says the locations are an Underground Railroad reference and “a tribute to Detroit’s Broadside Press, a publishing house of the late 60s and 70s that specialized in radical black poetry … They are reciting works by the Broadside poets, reading them directly from the original chapbooks … Asili insists on a place-based activism, making it clear that only certain kinds of interventions could occur in certain places.” Asili’s debut feature The Inheritance looks to be worth watching.
I was watching movies from last year’s Rotterdam and Sundance festivals, and now for a week on True/False movies. This is a transition film, premiering in last year’s True/False and showing up in this year’s Rotterdam (in Bright Future, with Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Manta Ray, Dead Horse Nebula). Opens with street scenes, talking with prostitutes, a squarish frame with v-hold issues and no sync sound, and I thought this might be a tough watch, then the editing sets it free – jumping around Jamaica meeting all sorts of people, beautiful photography and a vague structure around birth and death. It’s a poem of a movie, even less narrative than Hale County was, and at least as good.
The 16mm film full of light flares is interspersed with gliding HD. No subtitles and I can’t make out half the words, and zero sync sound, though sometimes we seem to be hearing the person we’re seeing speak, so it’s being shifted on purpose. So much Christianity – then an explanation for why that is, then an intro to rastafarianism and discussion of weed. I am an uncultured dummy who knows nothing about Jamaica or its culture, but there’s an echo effect on the end of sound clips and I wondered if this was dub-influenced. When the movie ended I was trying to remember how it started, watched the first half again before realizing that I was just going to keep playing it forever on a loop. Vikram Murthi saw it at T/F and notes that “the film is in direct conversation with the work by the Black Audio Film Collective.”