Hosted by Broadway Cinema and curated by Sophia Ramcharan, this Sunday’s Film Open provided an opportunity for new and emerging filmmaking talent to showcase their work on the big screen for an audience. With an emphasis on films, documentaries and music videos directed and/or produced by Black and Ethnic Minority talent and Women, the event featured an eclectic mix of different projects, most notably the incredibly impressive 1745, which closed the screening.
Nottingham-based mixed-media installation artist Bev Sterling’s participatory video Slave Bracelets screened first. The visceral, beguilingly simple video effectively put a set of simple bracelets within the context of slavery, transforming them from decorative emblems to claustrophobic restraints with the use of voice-over and imagery from the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Although designed to be projected from above onto a large table or floor, Slave Bracelets was equally effective and emotive on the cinema screen.
Manolo, a dance video directed by Gavin Gordon and featuring talent from Take One Studio was next up, followed by Michael Mante’s Body Language, a visually striking artistic exploration of racism, classism and gentrification through the performance of a krump dancer.
The first narrative short film of the event came with Victoria Thomas’s Ladies Who Lunch, based around the story of a kleptomaniacal 70-year-old’s efforts to enlist her friend as an accomplice in the robbery of the local art gallery where the two meet for tea. BAFTA-nominated Thomas’ film was an amusing, sweet study of our perception of the elderly in society, as well as the place of morality in those over a certain age. Yero Timi-Biu’s beautiful animation Beneath The Surface then portrayed two young friends of different racial backgrounds growing up together but experiencing the world entirely differently. Through the veil of childhood innocence, micro-aggressions and racial stereotyping, we observe their friendship, and the difficulties they face, over a period of 25 years.
“Apparently black culture is the shit, but black people aren’t,” was the overriding theme of Hairitage, Aisha Sanyang-Meek’s emotive three-minute consideration of the social and personal politics of black hair, told with a huge amount of passion and clarity. It was followed by Daisy Ifama’s Two, a documentary introduction to the conversations surrounding the complex nature of multiracial identity. Visually, we’re presented mostly with photos, with only passing glimpses of the two young women who, although from a similar heritage, identify as different races. Through first-hand accounts, Two is greatly effective in highlighting the personal intricacies of a multiracial identity.
Some of the most striking visual imagery of the showcase came with director Victoria Thomas’s second contribution, I Believe in Pink. Portraying a tattoo artist based in Lagos, the short documentary explored the niche of men getting their lips tattooed pink in order to appear more acceptable to society. The tattooist’s matter-of-fact voice-over, coupled with unflinching footage of men having the treatment is darkly fascinating and bizarre in equal measure, and was doubtlessly amongst the most memorable of all the films shown.
A double-bill from Cherry Johnson followed next, with two short documentaries from her Artists With... series, a new collection of short documentaries about young people with varied disabilities, who choose not to let this effect their love for the music and the media industry. The first, Artists With Apergers, focused on Jamal Stez, a young dancer from Nottingham who uses dance as a method of both expression and release. The second, Artists With Cerebral Palsy was an inspiring and honest look at the life of Truth A.K.A James Ellis, a rapper and producer who refuses to let celebral palsy prevent him from achieving his dreams of pursuing a career in the music industry.
Following another music video, Moneys The Motive by Muzikal Rebels, also directed by Cherry Johnson, was Sue Ansell’s Rockabyebye. The experimental, hypnotically poetic short film based on the traditional lullaby ‘Rock-a-bye-baby,’ follows Rowan as she leaves her baby in the care of an ancient tree so she can confront her fears in the surrounding forest. This was followed by the final music video of Film Open, Green Garden feat J. Gold, directed by Gavin Gordon.
Jordan McGibney’s Rise preceded short comedy The Deal, directed by Mark Oliver and Johann Myers. Following the tribulations of a suburban couple who, whilst experiencing marriage difficulties, decide to try and spice things up with the introduction of other people, The Deal received a great audience response.
The highlight of Film Open was doubtlessly 1745, the 18-minute short film from Gordon Napier that follows two young black enslaved sisters who escape into the wild highlands of 18th century Scotland. Featuring two stunning performances from its lead actresses Moyo and Morayo Akandé, and some breathtaking cinematography of the Scottish Highlands, 1745 has justifiably been selected for both the BFI London Film Festival and The Black International Film Festival.
Film Open took place at Broadway Cinema on Sunday 10th September.