New Labor Movements: Movement IV. Creation/Emergence

Contemporary filmmakers explore acts of movement as a profound catalyst for societal and individual change in American and Black life. A presentation of the
McEvoy Foundation for the Arts

A Black woman in a red cowboy hat poses dramatically with her hands in front of her.

February 16 – 18

New Labor Movements is a collection of short films that explore contemporary visions of America and concepts of transnational Blackness. Through a compositional discourse that extends across four hour-long “movements,” the program navigates the philosophical, psychological, and emotional landscapes that manifest in the lives of slavery’s descendants and those living in the aftermath of slavery’s indirect, proximal effects.

Curator Leila Weefur organizes the program to consider the question of “What is America today?” as inspired by Lessons of the Hour, Isaac Julien’s immersive film and photographic exhibition on the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass. Evidenced in the selection of films are thoughtful articulations of movement that reveal the nuance of global political critique and a profound broadness of Black life across borders. The act of movement is a structurally fluid principle that shapes the program and its explorations of film construction and narrative; the distribution of labor and power; the trans-Atlantic movements of goods, capital, and people; and one’s movement through a gallery or in a theater. Taken together with the multi-sensorial, meditative qualities of Lessons, the program engineers a gender diverse, intergenerational dialogue amongst Black filmmakers that explores the creation of cinematic narrative and Black political history.

Creation/Emergence opens with Nkiru’s Rebirth is Necessary (2017), a “multi-sensorial therapeutic experience,” that suggests an almost synesthetic interpretation of Black existence. An adjacent sense of catharsis is explored in T (2019), Keisha Rae Witherspoon’s profound look at how Black people grieve one another, while Elegance Bratton and Jovan James’ Buck (2020) explores the process of surrendering to the difficulties of acceptance. Also included are films by Terrance Daye and Onyeka Igwe. Weefur states, “Movement IV. ​Creation/Emergence is what you hope to find on the other side of liberation—to discover a continuum, not of struggle but of complexity that is Blackness as gestalt.”

In conjunction with the online presentation, Rizvana Bradley moderates a free online discussion on February 18 at 12pm PST with Weefur and filmmakers Elegance Bratton, Jovan James, and Jenn Nkiru.

New Labor Movements is inspired by the West Coast debut of Isaac Julien’s immersive film installation Lessons of the Hour—Frederick Douglass (2019), on view through March 13, 2021 at McEvoy Arts. A series of online conversations with these artists and invited thinkers and scholars takes place throughout the run of the exhibition. Admission to McEvoy Arts is free.

Price: $5–20 sliding scale rental fee  (50% of proceeds support The Roxie Theater)


Total Running Time: 78 minutes
All film descriptions written by Curator, Leila Weefur

Jenn Nkiru

Rebirth is Necessary, 2017

Digital video, color, sound, 10 min. 30 sec.

To define the sounds, shapes, and textures of a Black future is to provide a multi-sensorial therapeutic experience. Director Jenn Nkiru’s Black Star: Rebirth is Necessary, embodies the Black transnational future in colors and rhythms to match almost any expression of Blackness. This film is an affirmation, “I am the blended colors of life that light the bridge into a new age.”

Terrance Daye

Cherish, 2018

Digital video, color, sound, 6 min.

Cherish is a spiritual journey to liberation through the sensorial explorations of a young Black boy. This short and delicate story delivers us the impossible, showing us that in this corner of the American South, Black boys can fly.

Keisha Rae Witherspoon

T, 2019

Digital video, color, sound, 14 min.

Deep down in the Floridian South is a visually arresting display of the ways Black folks grieve one another. T is a reminder of the infinitude of Black creative existence and the unity found in the process of healing. This short documentary-style film shows that even in the throes of violence we celebrate, we dance, we adorn, we cry, we laugh, we mourn.

Onyeka Igwe

Specialised Technique, 2018

HD video, black-and-white, sound, 6 min. 57 sec.

“Pulse, pulse, pulse…” A voice, a drum, a cadence of contrast is used by Onyeka Igwe to conjure the “livingness” present in the archival documentation of Black dance. Consecutive questions that appear as mere title cards, words adorning the edges of a body, or as an independent character in the frame are all self-reflexive exchanges between the director, the subjects, and the audience.

“Do you not want me to see your face?” is a question steeped in self-awareness and the issue of the spectacle ever-present in colonial cinema.

Elegance Bratton, Jovan James

Buck, 2020

Digital video, color sound, 14 min.

To be gay, black, and looking for relief. The leading young man, Lynn, is looking to sex to free him from a psychological paralysis and refusal to heal. His journey only reveals to him what many already know, the search for joy and happiness is complicated and cannot be realized in isolation. Bratton and James guide us through the process of surrendering to the difficulties of acceptance.



Leila Weefur (She/They/He) is a trans-gender-nonconforming artist, writer, and curator whose work in video and installation brings together concepts of the sensorial memory, abject Blackness, hyper surveillance, and the erotic. Weefur has worked with local and national institutions including the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; Smack Mellon, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and The Wattis Institute, San Francisco. Weefur is a recipient of the Hung Liu award, the Murphy & Cadogan award, and the Walter & Elise Haas Creative Work Fund. They are a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of The Black Aesthetic. Weefur received their MFA from Mills College and is based in Oakland, CA.