Filmfest 2019

German Age Rating

Blending experimental documentary and essay film features, Arthur Jafa leverages a reflection on the legacy of Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech – with the aim to pose fundamental and pressing questions: What does it mean to be black? What is the concept of blackness? Where did it derive and what does this term mean for people of color living in the U.S. today?” Jafa approaches this topic by using lyrical images and offers possible answers. As an audio strategy, he uses the voices of some of the most powerful contemporary thinkers and artists in the field of black studies and black arts.

Monster, 1988, gedruckt 2019. Udo und Anette Brandhorst Sammlung © Courtesy the Artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York/Rome

tags: Documentary, Memories, Essay, History, Society

With: Kathleen Cleaver, Arthur Fielder Jr., Nicole Fleetwood, Kara Walker


Director of Photography: Hans Charles, Arthur Jaffa, Malik Hassan Sayeed

Film Editor: Kahlil Joseph, Antony Langdon, Lashawn McGhee

Composer: Melvin Gibbs

Producer: Onye Anyanwu, Arthur Jaffa, Alexandra Jones, Kahlil Joseph, Asa Mader

Director: Arthur Jafa


Jafa was born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1960, in the midst of the American civil rights movement. The movements cause, to bring an end to racism against the African-American population and to fight for equality both before the law and in everyday life, forms the backdrop to his work. Using different media, from photographs and objects to films, videos, and performances, he examines the mechanisms of exclusion due to cultural identity or ethnic background. […] In his photographs and films he shows a world of Black people and thus inverts what prevailed for centuries: the dominance of the White man, who decided what was significant, and what wasn’t. By presenting American (cultural) history as one shaped primarily by African-Americans, Jafa directly challenges this dominance. Jafa’s reception as an artist has gained momentum only in recent years, after initially taking part in exhibitions at the Artists Space (1999) and the Whitney Biennale in 2000. His work as a film-maker and DoP, however, had already secured him a lot of attention in the 1990s, including, but not limited to, his cinematography for Julie Dash’s DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (1991) and Spike Lee’s CROOKLYN (1994). In 2013, he founded the film production company TNEG to promote Black avant-garde films with Elissa Blount Moorhead and Malik Sayeed. In 2017, he directed the video for Jay-Z’s “4:44”. Today, he is regarded as one of the most important African-American artists and filmmakers of his generation.
(Source: Museum Brandhorst)