Q&A with director Arthur Jafa

In this new essay film, filmmaker and cinematographer Arthur Jafa (Daughters of the Dust, Crooklyn) begins with a question: what does it mean to be black in America in the 21st century? He composes the many troubled and troubling answers, offered in the form of evocative images of African-American men and women (intermingled with more abstract visual correlatives to certain remarks), and spoken answers from former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver, filmmaker Charles Burnett, poet Fred Moten, artist Kara Walker, and others, into a powerful choral work of sustained, burning intensity. Jafa’s aesthetic strategy of separating sound and image has a political charge: he wanted his interviewees to speak freely, unencumbered by the burden of “survival modalities,” i.e., learned forms of self-presentation for public consumption in general and the white world in particular. As of this writing, we are still in the wake of Eric Garner’s death in Staten Island, the National Guard has been called into Ferguson, Missouri, and Jafa’s haunted meditation seems increasingly relevant as the minutes tick by.