Field Niggas Screen 13 articles

Field Niggas

2014

Field Niggas Poster
  • An hour-long Harlem nocturne of near-hallucinatory intensity, Khalik Allah's provocatively-titled Field Niggas seeks to give a voice to the voiceless and a face to the faceless. But while admirable in its intentions and distinctive in its aesthetic, the project is ultimately hobbled by repetitiveness and directorial self-regard.

  • The film aims to approximate a drugged-out experience, unfolding in slow motion and with the soundtrack out of sync with the images. As in [Those Who Feel the Fire Burning], the point is to obscure the viewer’s understanding of context in hopes that he divines some sort of abstract beauty in the images.

  • The combination is simple: a lot of slow motion portraiture combined with a soundtrack of snippets of people’s conversation and interview. This straightforward method yields one of the most powerful and compassionate statements on race, on politics, on class, on policing, on drugs, that I’ve encountered in contemporary American cinema.

  • Allah's aesthetic is bold: He presents his images (captured with a handheld camera) in slow motion, as a collage of disembodied audio interviews with the corner's regulars plays over the visuals. It's a stunning formal gambit, expressing the marginalization of his subjects through a heavily stylized use of their bodies and voices. By disconnecting sound and image, Allah heightens the reality of both... As an experiment in consciousness-raising, Field Niggas is lucid and potent.

  • Field Niggas quite literally gives voice to the voiceless, to those rarely allowed to convey their stories or speak of their experiences. “I can make a movie of my history,” an unidentified man states confidently early on; with Field Niggas, Allah has made a film not only rich with history (and histories), but one suffused with a stubborn faith in the promise of a better tomorrow.

  • I’ll leave the final word on documentary theory and practice to Khalik Allah, director of the superb Harlem night-flight chronicle Field Niggas, which features this explanation to one subject: “I’m not even in my body anymore, G. I just use it to hold my camera.”

  • Not just avoiding but repudiating condescension, director Khalik Allah’s camera, a longtime, welcome presence in the neighborhood, spotlights his subjects in stunningly composed, dignified portraits that are hypnotically woven with street images.

  • With vast empathy and spontaneous imagination, Khalik Allah revitalizes the genre of the observational documentary and transforms several simple technical tricks into a vision of the world... The film evokes inner complexities that defy harsh circumstances with a virtually literary exaltation. The result is an intimate movie with a metaphysical grandeur, a detailed local inquiry that displays the crushing power of societal forces as well as the passion and vitality of those who endure.

  • FN possesses a fragmented structure that flits among subjects and avoids a linear demarcation of time. This will likely frustrate viewers expecting Allah to chart the macrocosmic social forces responsible for homelessness or to cover them through a single representative case... Instead Allah goes for audio-visual “poetry”—a lofty and risky goal for any documentary venture, but one that FN successfully, and uniquely, obtains.

  • Mr. Allah mixes some field calls into the soundtrack to underscore this idea of bondage, his film is so beautifully constructed that nothing in it ever seems obvious. In his poetic way, and his eventual approach to the metaphysical, he makes his case. While the movie’s multiple images are never less than numinous, and its rhythms sometimes skirt the strangely seductive, this astonishing movie is the opposite of hypnotic.

  • Filmed throughout the summer of 2014 on the warm, sweat-drenched streets of Harlem (between 125th Street and Lexington Avenue to be exact), Khalik Allah’s Field Niggas is an all-out sensory experience, gonzo journalism that’s a visceral call-to-action.

  • Field Niggas is a humane, compassionate film, but not without sparks of bleak humor. In this respect, it is reminiscent of Marc Singer's classic documentary Dark Days, about the community living underground in New York's train system. But it's also intense and harrowing, evoking a strong sense of this blighted urban pocket as an infernal prison.

  • This documentary/photography/audio hybrid not only gives platform to the often-voiceless inhabitants of Harlem but also heralds the arrival of a powerful, gifted, ambitious new filmmaker. Fractured and impressionistic, Field Niggas is that rare movie that shows us new forms can indeed be invented and that ‘documentary’ is a uniquely elastic carrier for urgent, vital ideas.

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