African American filmmaker Khalik Allah’s meditative trip, lasting more than three hours, through the streets of Harlem in search of enlightenment. Allah, who started as a tour photographer for the Wu-Tang Clan, focuses on the fate of the homeless man Frenchie in his third film. The trope of an outcast works somewhat as an allegory for the spiritual alternative inherited by black people. The film is part of Inventing the Future—a program of special screenings within the 1st New Holland Island International Debut Film Festival.
By night, the streets of Harlem are filled with lost souls. Bodies floating in the dark and carrying the weight of the past on their shoulders. Frenchie, a Haitian man, is one of them, the product of years of wandering and humiliation. In his hypnotic film Khalik Allah, who began his career as a photographer for the Wu-Tang Clan, takes the American tradition of street photography to a new artistic level. His portrayal of the inhabitants of New York’s mean streets is more reminiscent of religious painting than socially conscious art (his closest Russian counterpart is Artur Aristakisyan). For Allah, who is half Iranian and half Jamaican, Frenchie is not simply a victim of oppression, but a symbol of spiritual strength and purity. Shot on 8 mm, 16 mm, and video and clocking in at 200 minutes, IWOW is edited like a hip hop mixtape, putting the viewer in a trance whether they start watching from the beginning or the middle of the film. This personal manifesto has become an unwitting response to the Black Lives Matter movement and understands the word black to stand primarily for spiritual experience.
The screening is in English with Russian subtitles.
IWOW: I Walk on Water
Dir. Khalik Allah
USA, 2020. 200 min. 18+