Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Other - Isaac Julien

Time to clean up your act

At the Studio Film club in Port of Spain, Trinidad Isaac Julien's experimental film, Territories is screened. This is part of the Studio Film club's participation with the Trinidad Film Festival. Produced during his studies at St. Martin School of Art in 1984, Territories deals with race relations particularly with the West Indian community in London and something more.

The BBC Reports; Tempers were boiling among young black men over police use of the "sus" law, under which anybody could be stopped, searched and held, even if only suspected of planning a crime...

At Notting Hill Carnival in London, a riot ensues and the force of the all white British police are out to enforce order from the hooligans who have disrupted the celebrations.
But this turns into war, between the white majority and the black community who feel they are trampled upon by who they are ethically, and the perception that if black people congregate in large groups, it means trouble.

The footage used in this film is actual from the riots in Notting Hill in 1976. To not be accepted as part of the community when you are apart,
Territories addresses it as an overlay in narration, in which the "Other" he describes is himself and exposes the ways the British laws segregated the black community by proposing restrictions like issued passes to citizens to enter or the ban on drumming at the festival under the pretense of noise disturbances. Nevertheless, Mr.Julien attempts to educate the viewer by giving a brief history of the festival, and its roots originating from Trinidad and Tobago. In 1964, Notting Hill hosted it first carnival to celebrate West Indian cultures and traditions.

In British contemporary art circles, the attempt to portray a part of London's woos is considered as ground breaking. No one dared to deal on a subject so sensitive. Mr. Julien has layered his film with imagery of himself as a black gay man embracing another. There are nuances of his sexuality but it is edited with subtle care. The stills are interjected with the backlash of the police force. In closing, Territories pans rows of abandon public housing, and it shows United Kingdom's role as oppressive, towards its people or neighbouring territories such as the conflict in northern Ireland.

As a student film, Territories is just that, in its contents and context of its visual artistic language. This is a short film, about twenty five minutes long, but it seems to drag on a bit. Mr. Julien's repeats of a few stills, yes the footage may be apt for the part, but repeating it too often can also distract from the message it is trying to convey.

Top image; The official poster for the film event. Bottom; The gates to the Studio Film Club in Trinidad, West Indies.

All Rights Reserved 2007, Wonder of The World, thebookmann

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