Putting Our Film on the Line
A Brooklyn, N.Y.-based filmmaker recalls the tension -- and triumph -- of competing at a summer festival.
We arrived and viewed the first film, a thriller. The room, an old church emptied of religious artifacts, was sweltering. There were a few fans in the windows, but they fell short of doing any good.
The film featured a surprising four murders -- all gunshots to the head -- in its brief run time. Every scene seemed to captivate the audience, every death more impressive than the one before. The crowd was silent and tense save for a few gasps. The film ended. The audience applauded.
The lights went up, and the heat of the room seemed to lift a bit. The director bowed, the lights went down and Slow began.
The narration creaked through the speakers. As I watched, the audience -- who moments before had sat riveted by point-blank murder -- still seemed to be on edge, waiting for more gunshots. None came. Eventually the audience began to shift and fidget, like children in church.
As the film progressed, head scratches became audible. A mother grabbed up her small children and walked out, followed by another gentleman and an older woman. A woman sat with her head down, seemingly afraid to look up. Within the short 13 minutes of the film, the energy in the old church had shifted, and the room buzzed with confusion and misunderstanding.
The applause seemed tepid, but it managed to grow to a slow rumble. Darius' success, we realized, was that the film had indeed made people uncomfortable. The idea of a gay relationship forming from an online hookup had startled people.
In this age of "down-low brothers" and an abundance of effeminate gay best friends, there are still black people who can't accept gay intimacy. The reaction, while far from pitchforks and protests, showed us that even as black people expand and reach newer heights, we leave our art behind to dwell in the same shallow pools. We need to embrace all areas of our culture -- this includes homosexuality.
Once all the finalist films had been shown, it was time to announce a winner. A roar of applause and cheers greeted the surprising news that Slow had been selected as best short film at the festival. It seems that winning is just as infectious as fear, and now it was victory's turn to circulate through the room. That night we danced and celebrated.
Leaving the next day for New York was difficult. We boarded our ferry knowing that our vacation was fading. Our minds drifted to what stories we would tell next, and how far out of Brooklyn they could take us. Our freedom comes not only from exploring new places but also from seeing how wide our range of expression can be.
You can watch Slow on Vimeo here.
Obatala Mawusi is a writer, filmmaker and actor based in Brooklyn, N.Y.