As part of the YouthDem programme, five young filmmakers, artists and musicians from Rotterdam worked in collaboration with Concrete Blossom and Het Nieuwe Instituut. They made two short films exploring the tension between rituals and identity formation in the Western world. The films If The Walls Could Speak and Big Man will premiere during this afternoon.
The installation G/D THYSELF: Spirit Strategy On Raising Free Black Children is inspired by the short film AS TOLD TO G/D THYSELF (2019) by The Ummah Chroma collective. This film, shot in Baltimore, USA, unfolds as a non-linear, cosmic journey through youth and old age. Inspired by this city’s rich history, The Ummah Chroma visualise different experiences that show the flowering of Black culture and community; liberating images that honour the victories of the region's emancipatory creative spirit.
These victories, however, come at a price, such as being socialised as 'different', respectability politics (joining the political majority as a survival mechanism) and the violent reactivity of white ‘fear’, all of which are also part of the global Black experience. This is likewise the case in Rotterdam – Baltimore’s sister city – where more than two-thirds of young people have a migrant background. The city has a majority of minorities who are confronted daily by institutional white supremacy aided by hyper-capitalism.
If The Walls Could Speak
The short film If The Walls Could Speak (2020) was jointly conceived and produced by the part of the YouthDem group that Concrete Blossom convened and guided for this occasion. Janilda Bartolomeu, founder and owner of the film production company The Creole Lens, developed the concept and screenplay. True to her company’s name, she wanted this project to offer a view of the world ‘through a Creole lens’. The Caribbean-French concepts of créolité and créolisation provide a prism through which we can see how rapidly our understanding of the world around us is changing. The narrative of Janilda’s film does not follow a linear conception of time but transcends it in such a way that realities, relationships and positions can arise that shake traditional chronological logic. Janilda Bartolomeu partly attributes this to the fact that Creole communities are not stuck in the chronology of an unambiguous history, especially that of the family.
The other part of YouthDem directed George's film Big Man (2020). The Concrete Blossom team supported the direction and production of both films. Inspired by the film AS TOLD TO G/D THYSELF by The Ummah Chroma, Big Man translates YouthDem’s experiences. A ritual led each step of the creative process: ablution, the cyclical power of the moon, and rebirth. The central question for George was:
"What does it mean to grow up, and how long does it take? Who makes you a ‘man’?"
Throughout, YouthDem explored the meaning of spirit strategies in their lives and whether your becoming an adult depends on your ancestors. These and other musings make up the narrative of Big Man.
After the two films have screened, a panel discussion with the filmmakers follows, where the filmmakers tell more about their inspirations and the challenges of working during the Corona pandemic. They will also discuss the collective creative process and the medium of film as a narrative form. Gyonne Goedhoop moderates the conversation.