Wednesday 1 April, 21:00-23:00, ICA

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Films: America, Garrett Bradley, USA, 2019, DCP, 29 minutes, UK premiere

Following the screening, Garrett Bradley will be in conversation with curator Karen Alexander and sound designer Trevor Mathison.

With the support of Arts Council England.

America is a poetic reflection on marginalised figures and African-American cinematic history. In 2014 the Museum of Modern Art, New York screened Lime Kiln Club Field Day thought to be the oldest surviving film featuring African-American actors. Made in 1913, the film is a romantic comedy starring famed Bahamian-American singer Bert Williams and the existing version of the film whilst unfinished provides fleeting glimpses of middle-class African-American communities. Inspired by this historic rediscovery, Bradley’s film is both an elegiac response both to Lime Kiln Club Field Day and a meditation on the thousands of silent films made between 1912 and 1929 and thought forever lost. 

America is made up of several short sequences from Lime Kiln Club Field Day which are interspersed with twelve vignettes. Just as Lime Kiln Club Field Day was thought lost and its depictions of African-American culture unseen, each vignette focuses on a person or a moment in time the memory of which has also been lost to history. Bradley’s filmed sections are shot on 35mm and each story centralises on inserting an African-American presence into moments commonly thought of as unequivocally white.

Originally conceived as a silent film, America’s soundtrack is designed by Trevor Mathison, member of the seminal Black Audio Film Collective. The subtle, meditative composition evokes the silenced voices of the communities represented on screen, and his score is punctuated by reflections from New Orleans residents sharing their thoughts on what it means to be American. 

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