Creatively Speaking Presents:
Take Your Bags + Keon

Director: Camille Billops / E.G. Bailey
USA / 1998 / 2020 / 11 min / 27 min

Last screened on Sun, Oct 18

Live Screening introduced by Michelle Materre, lead curator, producer, and host of Creatively Speaking, and followed by a conversation with Take Your Bags actor Keita Omowale Erskine and E.G. Bailey. The Q&A portion of the talkback will be conducted via a LIVE Facebook and Twitter chat with the hashtag #WeThePeopleAtMetrograph.

Keon, a young Black photographer, meets up with his brothers, Amiri and Dre, and they embark on a journey to acquire a new camera to complete his college-entrance portfolio. Along the way, they negotiate obstacles and dangers, subtle and complex but all too real, in an environment intent on policing their bodies and their expression. Inspired by the work of the L.A. Rebellion filmmakers, as well as Ousmane Sembène, François Truffaut, Agnès Varda, and the tradition of Black filmmakers and photographers from Gordon Parks to Carrie Mae Weems, the film was shot in black and white as a nod to early independent Black cinema, the French New Wave, and neorealism. Keon is preceded by Take Your Bags, about whose inspirations director Camille Billops said: “My take on slavery: when the Africans boarded the ships bound for America, they carried in their bags all their memories of home. When they arrived in the New World, their bags had been switched, and in them they found n—–, beast, slave… Many generations later, the children of these Africans toured the Museum of Modern Art to see the sculptures and art of Picasso, Braque, and Matisse. Lo! There were the beautiful icons of their ancestors, the images that had been stolen from their bags.”

Creatively Speaking Presents:
“We the People: The Shoestrings of Democracy”

As one of the most important elections in our lifetime approaches, we present this three-day series. With a nod to the 2011 art installation by New York City–based visual artist Nari Ward, “We the People: The Shoestrings of Democracy” ties together films with themes addressing one universal right: free and fair access to voting for every U.S. citizen. Shoestrings have several meanings within the cross-cultural meccas of our mostly urban existence. When sneakers are thrown over telephone wires, their shoestrings indicate the locations where the lives of young people of color have been lost. Mass incarceration require the removal of shoestrings from convicts’ sneakers, presumably to obstruct suicide attempts, though it’s more likely that a man or woman of color will die on the streets at the hand of law enforcement than within the confines of prison walls. From another standpoint, we see these shoestrings as a less effective but more real “bootstrap” with which immigrants and African Americans are supposed to “pull themselves up” even though the odds are often purposely stacked against them. We also see these “shoestrings” as a tool to unite citizens by collectively performing their “civic duty” to vote. With these shoestrings of our program, we hope to at least temporarily pull you into a more inclusive, thoughtful, and just world where the art of film can encourage a productive, progressive dialogue that can ideally lead to constructive, societal change.

Keita Omowale Erskine is a writer from New Jersey living in Chicago. He loves words so much he spends his work days reading and his nights talking about booze and food. His appearance in Take Your Bags with his cousin Camille Billops was an early highlight in their relationship, one that highlighted many life lessons he will never forget.

E.G. Bailey, recently named one of Filmmaker magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film, is a McKnight Media Artist Fellow and an Ivey Award–winning artist, director, and producer. He is the recipient of a regional Emmy, a LIN travel grant, and the Hughes, Diop, Knight Poetry Award from the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Conference. He was an editor for the film Petting Zoo and has directed and assisted plays for production houses such as The Guthrie, Pillsbury House, and Children’s Theatre. He is the co-founder of Tru Ruts Endeavors, MN Spoken Word Association, and the Million Artist Movement. His film New Neighbors premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and has won numerous awards and screened at over 100 festivals worldwide.

Over the course of 25 years, Creatively Speaking has become the leading, curated film series offering a diverse forum that highlights independent film by and about women and people of color. Working outside the mainstream, often with limited resources, the filmmakers represented provide a model for working within and around a historically underrepresented system that continues to this day. Founded by lead curator, host, and producer, Michelle Materre, their mission is to change the cultural narrative, one image at a time, and to expand audiences for independent film and video artists of color through community screenings, followed by lively and thoughtful discussions about the subject matter, as well as the art and craft of filmmaking.