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After a brief history of the “china girl,” an image of a white woman with color bars used by lab technicians to calibrate the color of the film, Prism blossoms into a provocative investigation into the inherent racism of film cameras and lens technology that is balanced for white skin tones. Each co-director is in charge of her own segment, with the triptych strung together with Skype conversations they have with each other about their work and what they’re thinking about. Each merges together conversations, re-stagings, and visual gestures into a sum greater than its parts, deftly skirting technological determinism while remaining attentive to the great restorative power of being seen.
The first segment is An van. Dienderen’s, who convenes the project and expands its scope, taking place in an abstracted but universalized film school, far from the particulars of lived experienced. Then, Rosine Mbakam, based in Brussels but from Cameroon, interviews white former film professors and photographers in Belgium about their relationship with their Black human subjects and with films from Black African directors. She also stages the Marie-Guillemine Benoist painting Portrait de négresse and films herself, her white husband, and their son together in one frame. Eléonore Yaméogo, based in Paris but from Burkina Faso, interviews Black members of the film industry on their struggles of being filmed or filming. Structured as a chain of letters, the larger project crucially, resolutely seeks to return power to the South, to the margins, and seeks to construct a true sense of co-creation between the three filmmakers across their differences. (AS)
World Premiere at the 2021 New York Film Festival.
Please Note: All in-person screenings at the Brattle now require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test (within 72-hours)