Wayward Labours gathers filmmakers attentive to the revolutions in minor key displayed in the lives and voices of people engaged in various forms of domestic work. In the 16mm silent short Katanga (Haileselassie, 2021, 2’, Canada), the time of labour and the time of consumption coalesce. The film suggests that forms of memory work labour, and labour directed towards the self offer reparative and insurgent possibilities. Fannie’s Film (Woods, 1981, 15’, USA) stands in affective proximity to Katanga, in its emphasis on pleasure and satisfaction in the protagonist’s contagious happiness. The film’s nonlinear temporality juxtaposes the bodily exertion of Fannie as she cleans the pilates studio, and the exertion of the customers as they work out. In a Q&A at the 2019 Courtisane Festival, Fronza Woods recounts that no matter how much she expected, even desired, anger from Fannie, she couldn’t get it out of her. Fannie’s contagious happiness and luminous speaking, humming and singing voice ended up defining the film. A Mother’s Body (Twum, 2020, 8’, Sweden) responds to Fannie’s Film in a cinematic call and response. With powerful contrast, distant, clinical images of domestic workers cleaning are overlapped with the intimate voiceover of a daughter reflecting on her mother’s alienated labours. Distance is also key to the surrealism of Three Atlas (Charles, 2018, 6’, Haiti). On a discursive level, the maid suspected of murdering her employer answers the police in diggressive but strikingly evocative ways. Visually, the camera only lingers on the outskirts, focusing on exteriors, windows and facades. 

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Haileselassie, 2021, 2′, Canada (silent)

a disjointed process of the filmmaker’s mother making katanga (ka-tinn-yaa) in analog film. A simple dish which represents survival, kinship and resourcefulness.

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Fannie's Film
Woods, 1981, 15′, USA
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A Mother's Body
Twum, 2020, 8′, Sweden

An intimate portrayal of two women hotel cleaners from a daughter’s perspective, addressing how their profession affects their bodies and relationship to time.

A 65-year-old cleaning woman for a professional dancers’ exercise studio performs her job while telling us in voiceover about her life, hopes, and feelings. A challenge to mainstream media’s ongoing stereotypes of women of color who earn their living as domestic workers, this seemingly simple documentary achieves a quiet revolution: the expressive portrait of a fully realized individual.

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Three Atlas
Charles, 2018, 6′, Haiti

A maid is suspected of murdering her former employer. Questioned by the police, she will reveal the existence of a supernatural power.

Black Speculatives mobilise myth, fabulation and subversive reenactments to critique and undermine dominant narratives. With utmost irreverence towards the protocols and disciplines of history, the films probe what it means to represent, to record and to remember. Camille Billops’ Suzanne, Suzanne (1982), turns familial and collective memories into sites of dissent rather than romance. Amidst this reckoning,  a daughter confronts the silences that surround her experiences of abuse. The Witnesses, The Wayward, The Waiting (​​Mboya, 2020, 16’, Senegal) makes imaginative use of oral histories through narrative dispersal and polyphony to destabilise origin myths. Such destabilisation is also present in Solomon Riley Presents Negro Coney Island (Dozier, 2021, 10’, USA). Focusing on the thwarted early 20th century project of an amusement park for Black people, the 16mm film intersperses archival photographs, maps, documents and reenactments. In long, static shots of Black cultural figures of the time, the film vividly conjures their desires and aspirations while the fugitive movement of the camera as it sweeps across the contemporary landscape of the island gives its present a ghostly quality. The singular narrative voice of An Ode to A Time I Love Bread (Ngelime, 2021, 11’, Belgium) is no less polyphonic in its refusal to be contained, as it recounts growing up in a colonial legacy boarding school in Tanzania. Intensely sensory in its soundscape and tactile collaging of objects and cutouts, it captures the memories, colonial hauntings and mythologies of the self embedded in ordinary objects, smells and sounds. A true child of the internet archive, The Season of Burning Things (Jama, Ghouled, 9 mins, United Kingdom) weaves archival footage from all over the Somali diaspora, chant, mantra and poetic discourse. Collage and reassemblage become ways to address the longing, fragmented belonging and memories characteristic of life in diaspora.

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Solomon Riley Presents Negro Coney Island

Dozier, 2021, 10′, USA

A film that redresses the erasure around Riley’s completed amusement park for the Black Residents in Harlem and the Bronx in 1924 on Hart Island,  often discussed as an urban legend or a failed architectural project. Working across archives, contemporary footage of Hart Island, and speculative interviews with key Black cultural producers of the time, including Riley, the film reimagines what we know about Negro Coney Island and its legacy with New York City’s still active potter’s field, Hart Island.

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The Season of Burning Things

Jama, Ahmed, 2021, 9′, UK

A moving-image collaboration between two artists. Unfolding from the creators’ perspectives in the Somali diaspora, the piece takes the lead from East African mythos and Islamic imagery to explore mythmaking, Blackness; a ‘generation of ghosts’ and the transient spirit.

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The Witnesses, The Wayward, The Waiting
Mboya, 2020, 16′, Senegal

First iteration of a three part curatorial essay made in Dakar in August 2020. The project explores the rhetoric of black and African folklore and the politics of who is invited to tell origin stories.

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Suzanne, Suzanne

Billops, Hatch, 1982, 26′, USA

Suzanne, after years of physical and psychological abuse, attempts to understand her father’s violence and her mother’s passive complicity, who suffered at her husband’s hands as well. After years of silence, Suzanne is finally able to process these painful memories with her mother and other family members.

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An Ode to A Time I Loved Bread
Ngelime, 2021, 11′, Belgium

Juvenile sentiments about the filmmaker’s time at a colonial legacy boarding school. Neema recreates the memories using collage, in hope to reconcile with her past or naming the ghosts. 

The five films that comprise Errantries/Ecologies depart from the idea of a solitary figure to explore different types of uncharted navigations of time and space. In each film the practice of wandering performs, dances, cites, a remapping and rearticulation of ecologies: geographical, historical, and spiritual. In Life and Death (Dumas, 2019, 6’, Trinidad and Tobago) a group of women channel their kinship through dance, and from eating from the earth – even its ‘waste’. The topic of extinction is prevalent in Dead As A Dodo (Habiballa, 2022, 5’, Sudan). The narrator recounts and recites from colonial texts, with the rearrangements of images, quotes, and diagrams, to trouble notions of myth, animality, and womanhood. He who was shared (Mujinga, 2016, 10’, DRC) leads us to a gorilla, but the categorisation of this living being is put into question by its appearance of waiting not necessarily for something but in the moment of simply waiting. Ire a Santiago (Gomez, 1964, 15’, Cuba) praises a sector of Cuba that the nation has tried to repress. Gomez blends the historical and contemporary to show the everyday lives of African-Caribbean communities. Through a series of questions, I Never Danced the Way Girls Were Supposed To (Suggs, 1992, 7’, USA) wonders on lesbianism, queerness, and Blackness. Acts as simple as polishing shoes, making a sandwich, kissing, open up a range of reflections and affirmations.

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Life and Death
Dumas, 2019, 6′, Trinidad and Tobago

As the world continues to consume single-use plastic at alarming rates, this silent, atmospheric film imagines a world where plastic replaces water – our singular life force.  An elegiac dystopia set in the Caribbean, the film explores everyday situations, transforming the idyllic into the tragic. It is a Caribbean call to action – and a message to all of us who share the planet.

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Dead As A Dodo
Habiballa, 2022, 5′, Sudan

Wiped out by Dutch settlers less than a century after their arrival on Mauritius to establish a  penal colony, the Dodo continues to live on as a disembodied signifier of its genocidal  extermination. Dead As A Dodo lays bare the settler colonial mythology at the heart of the  popular narrative of the Dodo’s extinction, drawing on archival material and in conversation with a book of poems titled A Theory of Birds by the Palestinian-American  poet Zaina Alsous. Lines from this collection and a zoological study of the Dodo (1848) have  been collaged into a cento to narrate the fictions (of race, name, and value) that enshrine settler  colonial imaginaria over and above living in “co-dignity” with the land. 

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He who was Shared
Mujinga, 2016, 10′, DRC

Hand-held camera follows a ranger using a machete to make his way through the dense green foliage of Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). An electronic soundtrack samples cicadas and birds with a low, repetitive synthetic-drum.

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Ire a Santiago
Gomez, 1964, 15′, Cuba

Emblematic of Gomez’s approach to place and portraiture, this short explores the everyday lives of urban residents in Santiago de Cuba, in the aftermath of the revolution, in terms of a complete transformation of rhythm and living.

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I Never Danced the Way Girls Were Supposed To
Suggs, 1992, 7′, USA

What makes Black lesbians so special? Suggs takes a fresh and funny approach to explore this and other questions using a mixture of scenes shot on film and video with running commentaries by women in the know.

Inspired by Tsitsi Dangarembga’s novel, and in reference to its title, Nervous Conditions links films on mental health, sexual and familial violence, and the experiences of women and non-binary people. In a light tone, Killing Time (Woods, 1981, 15’, USA) documents the difficulty to plan a successful suicide. Cavity (Tai, 2019. 5’, USA) assembles iconic films and TV shows with Black women characters and oversaturated imagery of monstrosity and madness. Traumatic memories surface in The Kitchen (Larkin,1975, 6’, USA). The tortuous experience of taming Black hair corrodes at the mind of a mental health patient. Similarly, in Eva’s Man (Addison, 1976, 11’, USA), we see Eva lose her sense of reality yet escape a narrative dictated by men of past partners and doctors. Based on Gayl Jones’ novel, Eva’s Man  is a brutal portrayal of the damning effects of abuse through the interiority of a Black woman. In the next work, 12th House (Wanogho, 2021, 6’, USA), an artist trapped in an unseen realm explores parallel universes in pursuit of a symbolic breakthrough. The last film Memory Tracks (Ajalon, 1997, 8’, UK) marks a particular direction of filming, with the protagonist following its recording to the point in which they meet and gesture intimately, mirroring each other. 

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tai, 2019, 5′, USA

A short film meditating on revenge, power and alternate realities.  Using the unanswered rage of Olivia Pope and her mother, Maya Lewis, as visual and sonic focal points, different narratives and their possibilities coalesce as a deadly siren song.

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The Kitchen

Larkin, 1975, 6′, USA (silent)

A reflection on the normalization of black self-hate stemming from the glorification of whiteness.  The film’s title and setting pay homage to the part of a Black woman’s hair at the nape of the neck that refuses to submit to white supremacy.  We call it “the kitchen.”

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Eva's Man
Addison, 1976, 11′, USA

TW: depictions of sexual violence.

An adaptation of Gayl Jones’ novel Eva’s Man (1976) about a Black woman incarcerated for murdering her abusive partner.

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12th House

Wanogho, Casem, 2021, 6′, USA

An experimental afro-surrealist narrative short about KESSWA a neophyte and unrealized artist, who while on vacation from work visits a mystical hotel in the city of Detroit and ends up trapped in her mind, on a seemingly endless loop.

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Memory Tracks
Ajalon, 1997, 8′, UK

A short experimental film about the spirit of resistance, often misread as madness. We follow a young Black protagonist in search for her revolutionary past as written on the urban landscape, in the context of London’s Portobello and Brixton.

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Killing Time

Woods, 1979, 10′, USA

A dark comedy that follows a woman (played by Woods but credited with the stage name “Sage Brush”) as she prepares to commit suicide.