Seye Isikalu decodes black male intimacy in ‘Monochrome’

black film for your black soul

For as long as film has existed, black life has been misrepresented or caricatured for the amusement or comfort of white people. There were minstrels of the silent film era, the servants of early Hollywood, the drug addicts and the drug addled of contemporary film. It seems black people only exist in film as a monolith, or a two dimensional placard on which others can place their preconceived presumptions. The films of the American Blaxploitation era started a movement of films by black filmmakers for black audiences, and while the genres have expanded the idea has remained the same.

2016 was a great year though for Black cinema, with films like Hidden Figures with Taraji P Henson, Barry Bandry’s Moonlight, Beyonce’s Lemonade and even Todrick Hall’s Straight Out of Oz. It was also the year British Nigerian filmmaker Seye Isikalu put out his full length short film The Oceana lush representation of heterosexual black love. Distinguished by its gorgeous lighting that seemed to preempt Moonlight’s lighting work and the undeniable chemistry between the film’s leads, it put Isikalu, formerly known solely for his extensive work as an in-demand fashion photographer as a voice to listen into in film.

There have always movies by black filmmakers for exclusively black audiences, exploring the vagaries of black life, but they have always been on the fringe, consumed outside of the mainstream. Perhaps this is because the common narrative around this medium is why Seye Isikalu’s The Ocean is not as widely known as it should be, but his sophomore film, Skinny Jeans will change all that. He has just released a short film Monochrome, almost exactly a year to the day since The Ocean was released, this time focusing specifically on stereotypes around black male intimacy and deconstructing them through ‘found footage’ style documentary footage of black men at ease around each other. There are longtime collaborators on this film as well as new faces, and subtle homage to Wole Soyinka’s memoir Ake, the younger years. 

Monochrome seems to be a standalone project as well as a piece of a larger piece of work that will probably be released later in the year, and frankly we cannot wait.

For now, slake your thirst with Monochrome, here.

monochrome. from SeyeIsikalu on Vimeo.

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