This entry was posted on August 5th, 2017

Nu Dem (Jennifer Saparzadeh, 2015)

By José Sarmiento Hinojosa

It’s difficult not to feel shaken by the images of red flowers fenced by metal barb wires in Jennifer Saparzadeh’s last film Nu Dem (2017). The transient feel of communities fleeing home through the Balkan Route is an image cinema has not been unaware of, but the nakedness of everyday coexistence, of a mass of humanity trying to reach Western Europe to survive, unaware if freedom or rejection awaits them, it’s specially disturbing in this kind of diary-film. “Nu Dem”, or “New Time” in Kurdish, can freely be interpreted as a game of words, all consistent to the tone of the registry made by the Iranian/American filmmaker. “New Them” or “Nude Them” are all valid viewpoints to pinpoint exactly what is is portrayed on the screen.

There’s a particular intimacy in the images of Saparzadeh, which could be linked to the honesty of the images of a Silvain George’s May They Rest in Revolt, but Saparzadeh distance is different, thus it’s roughness it’s also shifted, the texture of 8mm image serves as a counterpoint that separates the experimental documentary from this kind of journal, or travel log of humanity.

Another testimony of migration and violence is Kevin Jerome Everson’s Eason (2016), a film devoted to preacher James Walker Hood Eason, who was the leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), assassinated during New Year’s Eve. In Eason, among new footage shot by the filmmaker, we can hear a coach’s words against a background of young black students. Suddenly, the dramatic tone of the words of a coach, finds a new context between the gazes of this community of young athletes, as if Eason’s ghostly presence spun and began manifesting itself, expelling words of courage in this pre-game talk, that links the memory of the preacher in the midst of the Great Migration and the new struggles of this New Orleans black community.

Eason (Kevin Jerome Everson, 2016)

Everson’s gaze is significant because it manages to transmit an spirit which can still be sensed through his lenses, an atmosphere of a race that hasn’t been vindicated yet, massively displaced from its origins to escape inhumanity and injustice, and in this sense, it makes a great conversation with Saparzadeh’s film as well: testimonies of resilience and a shared human spirit that resists decay.

A much more personal tone and a different negotiation of intimacy and pure experimentation is found in Saul Levine’s last film, a part of his Light Lick series,  Light Lick: Amen (2017). A flood of light is cascaded through the camera lenses, a repetition akin a visual mantra that repeats itself constantly, achieving a pure state of ecstasy. This might be the reflection of faith, of pure human delivery, as is his father who is portrayed in his daily prayers after the first part. Almost a divine approach to a higher spirit, Light Lick: Amen is one of those rare films which deal directly with the ungraspable, with can achieved only via the spiritual, a rare occurrence that reminds us somehow of Steve Polta’s manifestations of light, but in the presence of a deep understanding, of a unique connection with the human and spiritual side. Saul Levine is one of expanded cinema true poets.

Nu Dem
Artist: Jennifer Saparzadeh
Country: Iran/USA
Format: 16mm
Duration: 9 min
Year: 2017

Artist: Kevin Jerome Everson
Country: USA
Format: 16mm > digital
Duration: 15 min
Year: 2016

Light Lick: Amen
Artist: Saul Levine
Country: USA
Format: S8mm > 16mm
Duration: 5.5 min
Year: 2017