by Aditi Jaganathan
The screening of Nathan Bryon’s audacious, captivating and humorous web-series “#Reality” at the start of the Future Film Festival carved a space for enriching conversations around the subversive potentiality of Black and brown creative work in Britain.
With a genealogy of Black expressive culture’s co-optation by white cultural capital being wedded to the dilution of a radical poetic, Bryon’s work shows potential of breaking this unholy union. Echoing the powerful work of Cecile Emeke, Bryon’s artistic practice centres Black stories, with conversations being created for, by and with Black Britain.
To see conversations around Notting Hill carnival, “dick pics”, tinder dates, police violence, the postcolonial border crisis and the complex intricacies Black life in Britain platformed alongside each other highlighted two things. Firstly, the absence of such narratives being brought to the fore up until now and, secondly, the power of Black creatives writing into the absence of nuanced contemporary representations.
Bryon’s work operates from a Black British frame of reference, deconstructing and subverting the white colonial gaze. Black subjectivities are platformed artistically through a prism of nuance for Black audiences and not for white palatability. This was axiomatic in the texture of conversations that were had and references that were made in his web-series. For instance, the absence of whiteness but holding of internalised imperialist white supremacist ideology was palpable in the piece on the Black Lives Matter movement in Britain where Black Nationalism was in conversation with internalised racism.
The conversational writing and tonality of the interactions between different characters captured the hybrid diaspora vernacular of Black Britain. The beauty of these pieces is that they impel conversation to be continued beyond the cinematic frame, calling for a shift in consciousness around identity, race and belonging in Britain.
Commencing the Q&A, a white middle class woman exquisitely performed white fragility, saying she was somewhat perturbed by the series’ binarisation of race, not allowing for a nuanced representation of whiteness. The eyes were rolling on the faces of all the people of colour in the room. Bryon casually responded that he is making his art for Black Britain and others who are interested in conversing with these lifeworlds. When the gaze of screen culture is centred on Black audiences then the potency of the art has the potential for being undiluted and nuanced, speaking to and breathing life to the myriad lived experiences of Black people in Britain. The power and beauty of this wave of British filmmaking is that whiteness is not the default or the frame of reference, it is not held in reverence, it is not a planet within which Black and brown filmmakers are orbiting around. It is this that creates a terrain for creative potentiality and resistance. Blackness as both ontology and epistemology is what breathes power to this wave of filmmaking.