Remnants of a Dream
by Amir George
There are five types of memory, long-term, short-term, explicit, implicit, and autobiographical. Through these forms of memory, we retain a limited amount of information. Memory never recaptures reality. Memory reconstructs reality. Reconstructions change the original, becoming external frames of reference that inevitably fail; seldom do we fully remember our dreams after sleep, only remnants. These remnants are reconstructed into a new narrative that our memory shapes. “Remnants of a Dream” is a short film program that functions as a recollection of global black experiences. Our memory can be a rekindling of the moments that shook us most, a pool party gone wrong, a summer on the brink, a disaster within the days of youth, our ancestral struggles, and our own desires. The films within “Remnants of a Dream” embody each of the forms of memory.
A.J. McClenon’s “He Kind of Like Skipped Over Me and Tells All My African American Friends to Go Sit Down,” is an echo from an interview with Dajerria Becton, a 15-year old girl who was attacked by a McKinney, Texas police officer while attending a pool party in a predominantly white neighborhood. Dejerria was violently forced to the ground by the officer and other black teens were forcibly removed. This film reflects on the long term memories of black people and public pools through a continuous experimental unfolding.
Summer Before Spring’s End takes place on an afternoon in Miami as a young man dreams of a perfect day but suddenly gets hit with a harsh reality, which tampers his views on the best season of the year. Summer Before Spring’s End created by Terence Price and L.E.O. (Reginald O’Neal), captures a vivid portrait of the Overtown community as the seasonal shift is guided by L.E.O.’s poetic narration. Summer is an implicit juxtaposition of life and death as beauty and inevitable pain moves in tandem.
Her Name in My Mouth invokes a lineage of female ancestors through embodiment, gesture, and the archive. The film, created by Onyeka Igwe, reimagines the Aba Women’s War, a major anti-colonial uprising in Nigeria. The film is structured around the repurposing of archival films from the British propaganda arm cut against a gestural evocation of the women’s testimonies. The archive assists us in channeling autobiographical memories. Memory can create intentionality, inspired by the experiences of others.
A fire destroyed Grenfell Tower in June 2017 and was one of the United Kingdom’s worst modern disasters. The fire broke out in the kitchen of a fourth floor flat at the 23-story tower block in North Kensington, West London. Within minutes, the fire had raced up the exterior of the building and then spread to all four sides. Seventy-two people died. Filmmaker Ayo Akingbade visited the Grenfell site, and spoke to local residents. The residents expressed their grievances and how their lives had been affected in the aftermath of the fire. The traumatic event sets the stage for Akingbade’s Tower XYZ. Tower XYZ is accompanied by a lilting soundtrack as characters wander through London’s concrete jungle while the narrator reflects on the current state of the city and her imagined future. Tower XYZ is a vibration exploring themes like gentrification and social cleansing. Ayo felt it was important that the characters in her film came from different backgrounds and traditions reflective of the multicultural society she comes from.
Memories are infinite time capsules, repurposed, and passed on. Childhood memories can breed trauma that we may not become aware of until adulthood. We must will ourselves to confront the memories that affect us the most.
Vonnie Quest’s Remnants of a Room reflects on a series of paranormal encounters that Vonnie’s father experienced at age twelve. Vonnie interviews his father as a way to get him to talk about not only the paranormal, but also about the feelings he is harboring toward his estranged father. The interviews are juxtaposed with the recurring images of a house destroyed by fire. In Vonnie’s words, “my films reflect surreal situations experienced either first hand or the people around me. This house is my father, a man plagued by events from the past that are ultimately destroying him and preventing him from moving forward. He feels that forgiveness is a sign of weakness, therefore refusing to do so, especially forgiving those who he felt in the past, meant him harm. I used non actors for this film with hopes of establishing a more organic portrayal of the child and his father.”
Our cultural memory is infused with nostalgia, the nostalgic remnants are pieces of the puzzle we put together of ourselves. Like a Star is an experimental documentary short based on a paragraph in Toni Morrison’s novel, Tar Baby, about the meditative, mystical life of an ant. In director Stefani Saintonge’s words, “the film is an exercise, where I challenged myself to create moving as subconsciously as possible. The paragraph I adapted from Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby is a passage that’s stayed with me since I first read it years ago. I wanted to combine this mini-story of ants with women’s work that’s familiar to me— braiding, cooking, sewing— but see it in a new way, and that’s where the macro lens comes in.”
The brevity of the six films included in the “Remnants of a Dream” program spark the rekindling and manipulation of memories toward paths of healing.
Amir George is a filmmaker and curator who creates work for the cinema, installation, and live performance. He is the co-founder of “Black Radical Imagination” a touring experimental short film series with Erin Christovale.