Resilience and a fighting spirit flow in the veins of someone like Ilyasah Shabazz or her family. Her grandparents were dedicated to the Marcus Garvey cause and targeted by the Black Legion for doing so. And her human-rights-activist parents, well, their names are Dr. Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X.
‘The Rape of Recy Taylor’ is the most important film of 2017. The politically charged film will leave you fired up and ready to make your voice heard. Shortly after the spectacular premiere at New York Film Festival, The Knockturnal gained exclusive access to the film’s panel, featuring Taylor’s brother, scholar Crystal Feimster, actor Cynthia Erivo, and director Nancy Buirski. Catch the commentary below:
Director, Nancy Buirski
On films immortalizing a story:
“So while I was in the middle of making the film I realized these stories were connected … I’ll just say that I met Recy, her family, and Robert the day that Barack Obama as inaugurated. And I went there with my family, I brought them a box of the legal documents and I think it was really import that they weren’t able to find anything and Robert had searched his whole life to find something. And the documents that I had brought back- town, those young men, and the historians in Alabama all tried to erase it and make it disappear and that erasure is anther kind of error and injustice. So the documents brought that back by saying of course what happened to you was real and no one can erase it. And I think this film adds a layer to that. No one can take this away anymore.”
Actor, Cynthia Erivo:
On the role actors play in aiding these stories:
“I feel like my job as an actor is to tell the stories people otherwise wouldn’t get to see or know about. There are things that are hidden and swept under the rug and I get the idea to get them out so there are no longer hidden. And I agree with what Nancy said, once it is part of a film it’s written down forever and can not be erased. So the idea that I was even able to be a small part of this means a lot to me.”
Scholar, Crystal Feimster
On the importance of the film:
“I think one of the things that Recy did was always maintain her humanity as a mother, a sister, and as a daughter. But then also, I think there is also the work that we do at different levels. For me as a scholar who works in the field and works on race and sexual violence-doing that deep work and showing these people as not just victims right. So the documentary does that work, it gives us humanity it shows us humanity, and brings humanity to Recy and her story. And then Nancy picks it up and she sees this as a story that’s to be told, and makes this beautiful film that humanizes the story at every level. So it’s not just we have this black woman who’s brutally assaulted but we have these young white boys who believe they have the right to behave in a certain way. That is part of a long tradition of the south that is not just about a bad apple, but this how racial and sexual violence functions. And you can use different terminology, but it really requires, artist, and historians, and family members to come out and be a voice to this story and we have to voice those wrongs in order to make them wrong.”
In America, we have pride parades. In China, there are covert fake marriage meetups for gay men to find lesbian women to marry. And this is just one of the abject differences in our cultures outlined in Inside the Chinese Closet, a gripping testimony of two parallel journeys through the veiled lives of LGBT Chinese people.
One, a lesbian named Cherry, tries to avoid dealing with children even as her mother desperately attempts to buy one illegally so she has someone to “take care of her when she’s old”. Her fights with her family become less pointed and increasingly unguarded under the scrutiny of the camera, and she even deigns to discuss her girlfriend. Growing up in a rural village, she is unable to even attempt to explain being a lesbian to people like her father- who she says would beat her to death if he knew.
Andy, a gay man “popular in the bear community”, or a specific type of gay male subculture, is trying to find a child. His father demands a child and he is determined to fulfill the request. When attempting to buy one from Taiwan, he discovers recent laws have made it illegal to take a child there. He turns to the fake marriage plot, meeting with several different lesbians and assuring them he will accept artificial insemination rather than, as one derisively puts it, “the natural way”.
What makes the documentary so chilling is the fact that these closeted LGBT people are not the youths we’ve come to know, struggling with their identity and figuring out how to navigate through the rainbow cities of America. These are middle-aged Chinese citizens, well into their lives and careers, who have known who they are for quite some time. They just can’t tell anyone- save for trusted friends and some, not all, family members. Another gripping film from the Human Rights Watch film festival, this will make anyone comfortable in the changing ways of America remember that Western ideals haven’t reached all corners of the globe.
Activism in China is no picnic.
According to the U.S. Refugee Agency, over 700 migrants are feared to have perished after a failed attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
On May 24, President Obama spoke in Hanoi about Unites States-Vietnam relations, examining relations and asking Vietnam to improve its human rights record.
Many may believe sight is a necessity for art, but one Canadian museum takes the steps to break stereotypes about the visually impaired.