BLACK AMERICA: Robert Minervini’s new documentary examines a community of disenfranchised people in New Orleans and their struggle for survival in a country that seems to have forsaken them.
JoAnne Velin
Jo-Anne Velin is a Canadian journalist & film director living in Europe, creating long-form documentary films with a very special focus on authentic sound.
Published date: April 4, 2019

Watch this film courtesy of eyelet below (subject to available markets)

Just let the black and white cinematography and unobtrusive sound design grow, let the characters gradually reveal themselves; give yourself time to think and wonder because you can feel the cameraman’s own attention is unhurried and sharp. The editor is generous: it takes time before you’re sure you’re in New Orleans, time before someone’s name is spoken, and time before you feel this film may be a way to frame fear and anger without becoming, in itself, an angry film.

What You Gonna Do When the World’s On Fire? was shot in 2017. Trump had just come into office, and for a while nothing focused hearts and minds in some communities like the numbers of African American men shot and killed by police. This film does not try to recreate that rage. Instead, it shows us the ways in which the fresh murders call up a fear that reaches back two centuries, and how awareness is not enough to overcome repression, let alone heal the pain people carry around inside themselves for a lifetime. «No justice, no peace!»

What is a true documentary?

How true to life is what we experience here? Minervini has shot his best-known films in different parts of the American south, in communities that are marginalised by poverty and that are way out in the countryside. Stop the Pounding Heart immersed us in a family of fundamentalist white Christians in Texas. It won awards but was also talked about because it was thought that the romantic relationship between two young people was engineered for the sake of the film. What can a documentary be allowed to be before it’s pushed into fiction (and completely different funding, festival, and competition stream)? The problem could be with the semantics, not the film itself, and with managing audience expectation. Is this what should be happening with Minervini’s latest film too?

Most of the time the camera is locked onto the faces of people who are ready to let us in.

What …

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