“What I’m trying to do is theorize a way to create a brand new Black cinema,” Skinner Myers says. “Like a new Black cinematic language that does not adhere to anything that’s Eurocentric or Hollywood.”
And Myers’ feature film, The Sleeping Negro, is Exhibit A. You’ll find touches of the L.A. Rebellion, Third World Cinema, and Slow Cinema—particularly, as the header image shows, Andrei Tarkovsky—but they are jumping off points; acknowledgment of the voices that came before, and a chance to begin again.
“There’s a few African filmmakers who attempted to make their own cinematic language for their people and their culture,” Myers continues, citing Djibril Diop Mambéty and Haile Gerima, “but, what happened was, they’d make a couple of films, and then they get shut out from any means of production or ways to make money or to make films. So, I’m trying to reignite that path and start where they left off—from a theoretical aspect. So that, from a film philosophy perspective, people who come way after me maybe will have a groundwork on how to build upon this theory.”
Myers is having a heck of a year. This summer, the 41-year-old actor, filmmaker, novelist, photographer, and professor relocated to the Centennial State and joined CU-Boulder’s Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts department. Back in January, The Sleeping Negro debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival and caught the attention of programmers around the world. It was picked up for distribution, played First Person Cinema in October, and before The Sleeping Negro hits theaters in December, it’ll screen at the Denver Film Festival on November 6 and 7 at the newly built AMC 9+CO 10.
The Sleeping Negro is one of nine features playing DFF’s Colorado Spotlight sidebar. Some of the entries are from local artists. Some, like Jamie Boyle’s Anonymous Sister (Nov. 12 and 13), tackle local issues. Originally from Golden, Boyle’s doc is a portrait of two family members falling into opioid use disorder and coming out the other side.
More from Boyle and Anonymous Sister in next week’s paper, but grab your tickets now at denverfilm.org/denverfilmfestival/dff44/ because they’re going fast. And that’s where you’ll find the other 230-plus features and shorts, narratives and documentaries, music videos and virtual reality experiences screening now until Nov. 14. Some are big titles with big names attached to them; others are small gems that remind you of the power of leaving your home and seeing something on the big screen.
Take Memoria (Nov. 6) from Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Tilda Swinton stars as a wandering Scottish woman encountering strangers on her way to clarity. Why is it a must-see? Because Neon, Memoria’s distributor, has announced that Memoria will only play theaters—never home video or streaming. Talk about staking your claim on the theatrical experience.
Ballad of a White Cow (Nov. 7 and 14), from Iranian directors Behtash Sanaeeha and Maryam Moghadam, is another best seen in a theater because this is a story you’ll want to be held by. In a way, Ballad is similar to The Sleeping Negro as it’s a movie based in theory, executed in dramatics. Here, the story revolves around Mina (Moghadam), a woman whose husband is sentenced to death. Justice is swift, too swift. A year later, another man admits to the crime Mina’s husband died for, and the police department must pay Mina blood money for their error. Money Mina’s father-in-law wants, so he sues Mina for custody of her daughter. If it weren’t for Reza (Alireza Sani Far), Mina wouldn’t have anyone to talk to. But Reza is hiding something from Mina, something that could shatter everything.
Ballad of a White Cow’s power is in its structure. It doesn’t unfold like a typical Hollywood story, but it still hits like an iron fist. But only if you hang with it, and nothing helps you hang with a movie like seeing it in a theater free of distractions.
ON THE BILL: The 44th Denver Film Festival, November 3-14, multiple venues and online. Information at denverfilm.org/denverfilmfestival/dff44/.