Wayward Waters: Black Cinema & The Atlantic—Fragments of Diaspora: Shorts Selections
FILM at LACMA presents classic and contemporary narrative and documentary films, artists and their influences, emerging auteurs, international showcases, special guest-curated programs, and conversations with artists and special guests.
As part of the series Wayward Waters: Black Cinema & The Atlantic, join FILM at LACMA for a special screening of the Fragments of Diaspora Shorts Program followed by a post-screening conversation with artist Suné Woods, artist-scholar Zama Dube, Assistant Curator of Film at LACMA Matazi Weathers, and film critic and scholar Yasmina Price.
Fragments of Diaspora is a program of experimental shorts materializing Black aesthetics as a remapping of relationships between people, history, environments, and movement. Maldoror’s poetic documentary on Négritude the poet Léon G. Damas (1994), Kawinzi’s meditative She Gather Me (2021), and Asili’s Many Thousands Gone (2014) rely on music and the sonic in their approach to Black expressive culture and diasporic connections. Disrupting and reshaping visual form, Harris’s Halimuhfack (2016), Woods’s Argonite Stars (2022) and Torres’s Toré (2015) play with visibility and concealment in their methods of cinematic incantation, engaging ritual and ceremonial practices. Taken together, these six short films rupture and repair geographies of Black life.
Many Thousands Gone
Ephraim Asili, 2014, 8 minutes
Filmed on location in Salvador, Brazil (the last city in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw slavery), and Harlem, New York (an international stronghold of the African diaspora), Many Thousands Gone draws parallels between a summer afternoon on the streets of the two cities. A silent version of the film was given to jazz multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee to use as an interpretive score. The final film is the combination of the images and McPhee’s real time “sight reading” of the score. Many Thousands Gone is one piece of filmmaker and DJ Ephraim Asili’s five-part series “The Diaspora Suite,” a personal and global study of the African diaspora.
She Gather Me
Miatta Kawinzi, 2021, 11 minutes
Titled after a line from Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, this piece by Kenyan-Liberian-American multi-disciplinary artist Miatta Kawinzi is a poetic meditation on the resonance of different physical and mental landscapes of the African diaspora. Through analog and digital film, video, and audio, this piece presents alternative ways of considering place and the search for a space of belonging and refuge.
Suné Woods, 2022, 13 minutes
Aragonite Stars is a five-channel video installation with audio accompaniment by the musician Meshell Ndegeocello available here as a single-channel screening. This single-channel iteration is a contemplation of the possibilities of healing through bodies of water such as oceans and hot springs and in vessels that are called human. Sensuality is a source of power that is enacted through the organisms in the work and they embody an existence where healing is through a reconnection to the nature within them. Interspecies communications are energetic pathways to understanding more intricately planetary imbalances that deeply affect all living beings. The work is informed by traditional healing practices such as shamanism and the wisdom of Octavia E. Butler.
João Vieira Torres and Tanawi Xucuru Kariri, 2015, 15 minutes
Shot in Alagoas, Brazil, the film was catalyzed by an invitation for French-Brazilian artist filmmaker João Vieira Torres to docunment a ritual. Honoring the limitations of an outsider’s eye, this haunting semi-ethnographic work brings together a child watching Fantasia on a tiny TV monitor and fragments of ceremony.
Chris Harris, 2016, 4 minutes
This video work features a performer lip-synching to archival audio featuring the voice of author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston as she describes her method of documenting African-American folk songs in Florida. By design, nothing in this film is authentic except the source audio. The flickering images were produced with a hand-cranked Bolex so that the lip-synch is deliberately erratic and the rear-projected, grainy looped images of Masai tribesmen and women recycled from an educational film become increasingly abstract as the audio transforms into a visual conjuring by award-winning experimental filmmaker Chris Harris.
Léon G. Damas
Sarah Maldoror, 1994, 26 minutes
Léon Gontran Damas was a Guyanese poet who, along with Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor, was at the center of Négritude, an anti-colonial cultural and political movement which emerged in the 1930s and upheld the legitimacy, specificity, and autonomy of Black civilizations, worldviews, and cultures in the wake of French colonization. Maldoror’s documentary meditation on Damas is assembled through recitations of his own poems, the loose structures of jazz and poetic images from his native Guyana. As one of her most exquisite aesthetic exercises, the film foregrounds how education, liberation, and poetry shaped Maldoror’s cinema.
About Wayward Waters: Black Cinema & The Atlantic
Presented in conjunction with Afro-Atlantic Histories, this series engages the multiple historical and cultural trajectories of the Black diaspora through the aesthetic expressions of filmmakers and visual artists. Curated by critic and scholar Yasmina Price, Wayward Waters: Black Cinema & The Atlantic traces the emancipatory and ecstatic possibilities of cinematic challenges to the transatlantic slave trade, colonization, and Euro-American imperialism. What emerges from these fluid currents of poetic and political Black visual culture is a defiant stance against borders and containment, offering a clearer encounter with the past and a more expansive vision for the future. Featuring artists and filmmakers from Brazil, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Mauritania, France, and North America, the program comprises three feature films preceded by shorts and one block of experimental short films.
Programmed by Yasmina Price, Guest Curator. Programming assistance by Matazi Weathers, Assistant Curator of Film at LACMA.
Co-presented with the Pan African Film Festival in association with LACMA’s Aspect Ratio film education program. For showtimes and the full festival schedule, see the Pan African Film Festival website.