A web of despair rendered through a fractured cocktail of poetry, dialogue, memories, and meditations that seek to transcend the bleakness and spiritual horror of mankind...
Photographed by Erik Swain
Production Design & Editing by Nina Fleck
Starrring Numa Perrier & Joel Brody
Post-Production by Brennan Karem
Sound by Chuck Brownley
Chants/Sound design by Dennis Leroy Kangalee
“If I love you I must make you conscious of the things you do not see.”
– James Baldwin
This is not only the task of the artist, but it is the quiet burden that all humanists must bear. To live with it is to accept that your life will never be “easy”, that your responsibility in this world will never be able to be tallied or itemized. It simply means you will always be at war with yourself and the world around you.
Endless Shards of Jazz for a Brutal World my new short film exemplifies the spiritual condition of being at war with one’s self…and the world around them. While sharing similar themes this experimental film exists as a separate entity and informal prelude to its genesis Octavia: Elegy for a Vampire, the full-length feature still in development.
A “blues monologue” and lament, Endless captures the interior world of an immortal woman cursed with having to feed off her own blood to retain a semblance of sanity– which reignites her memories of America’s racist past in order to face the terrors of America’s racist present…A fragmented ‘truth addict’ seeking cohesion, drinking her own blood imbues her with a great deal of sensitivity, yet it also bombards her with the pain from our collective shared history. In a sense, she sankofates when she drinks blood. This gives her the strength to try to reconcile her own affliction amidst a Capitalist world that will forever be alien to her.
The most dangerous, yet healthiest, entity one can be addicted to is truth. Facing truth can kill you. The truth about family, your country, your beliefs – it can traumatize the mere mortal but it can also rejuvenate. In the case of the mysterious vampire in Endless – all we know is that the truth of America’s social and political system is one that cannot be turned away from…and yet if an immortal creature must continue to endure hell on earth what hope is there for her?
Bound together with a poetic refrain referencing America’s early Black revolutionaries (Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth) that gives the film a strange a musical formation, the film is broken into five scenes or “tableaus”: a harrowing image of a historical crime, a journey along a city street in which the main character hobbles to and from in an attempt to escape or attain something, a mysterious conversation with a Russian man inside a car, the woman/vampire drinking her own blood, and disturbing memories (or “shards” as it were) of a singular past. This is a portrait of a soul in existential crisis as it tries to make sense of the perennial horror of racism. A soul forever cognizant of the world and man’s place within it; she has no delusions and cannot fathom how the world she was born into is still the same hellish, racist, hateful, perverse circus it was over a hundred years ago…If there is anything revolving it seems to be the same score of racial hatred and disintegration of awareness of our moral crimes. For a being who is able to see yesterday, today, and tomorrow in one room: there is no exit.
It is not so much suicide our vampire is after – it is solace, a waking utopia, a place far, far away from hell. The Mysterious Vampire in the movie has more in common with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. But where Ellison goes underground (literally), our Woman is cursed to keep roaming the earth, hoping for end, forever…
I am now exploring options of the world ending not with a cataclysm – but with a painful murmur. In some way, I’ve come full circle in my approach to expressing the great angst of racism on screen and how I see the world we live in.
My first film As an Act of Protest (2001) proposed taking action (it is no mistake the central character is an ACT-OR) and results in taking up “arms against a sea of troubles” and trying to take a stab at ending the mighty holocaust of racism and the abuse of Black people in America, which is tantamount to genocide.
Endless explore the desire for resignation as an alternative to rabid engagement. A soul can only endure and be committed to fighting against the horrors of the world for so long. Eventually what you are for becomes even more abstract than words like “freedom” or “justice” or “understanding.” The soul needs time to re-charge, heal, regain its strength. Whisper and not shout.
My characters were – are – never interested in tolerance or being understood, they are interested in the health of their souls and those who are oppressed. My African-American protagonists are players, however, in a doomed game; an absurd one. I often wonder how aware they are of this and while the impassioned impulses of the artist and the revolutionary in Protest seethe with my youthful rancor – they mean more to me today than when I was 24. Similarly, however, Endless and the “Octavia” character herself represent how I feel and see my own life within the trajectory of the racial nightmare in the west. And this wounded immortal woman who enters our lives for 20 minutes on screen was meant to represent all that has come before and all that may come after…and while she may be a freak of nature, she is not a superwoman. She can only take so much. Protest was angry, Endless is sad. And I feel very close to its weariness and I hope it can bring some comfort as well as provocation; I hope it prompts one to see how they identify with this strange character or how they see themselves – adrift in a world that provides no solutions and is not interested in “progress.” My earlier characters might have scoffed, but sometimes prayer is all one has to get through the steaming wringer of life. Even if it is a “vampire.”
It is not a matter of giving up, but sometimes death – the great desire to escape – the notion of disappearing in all that burns, all that destroys is the only rational and healthy option.
By traversing “horror”, collage art, poetry and pointed social & political commentary I offer a stripped down interpretation of spiritual isolation and political anguish with an emphasis on the essential power of necessary words (dialogue, mantras, etc) and the inner terror they manage to evoke or console. Contributing both to the new reaches in progressive narrative, I’ve completed a minimalist work that, in tone, owes its debt to both techniques in abstract expressionism and avant-garde and experimental jazz compositions. In approach, I tried my best to create something that would correspond to a “long-form” haiku or a mood that was so singular – it could only last for a certain period of time. It now exists, it now stands. May it breathe for as long as it chooses to…
For all my ambitions with the original conception – a three act Tragedy of sorts – I discovered a beautiful surprise these past three months: the power (and glory) of less is more.
Dennis Leroy Kangalee
July 06, 2015
NOTE: The trailer will soon go live — please check in periodically! The film itself will be previewed in September at Princeton University before making the rounds as specific venues, museums, and festivals.