CINEMA: Black Men Dream

#Blackmendream from Shikeith on Vimeo.

NPR: Nine men sit turned away from the camera; their faces are never shown. Many are shirtless or naked. They answer questions like: When did you become a black man? Do you cry? How were you raised to deal with your emotions? This short film, called #Blackmendream, is the latest piece by Philadelphia-based multidisciplinary artist Shikeith Cathey. His work centers around the social, cultural and political misconceptions about black men in America, and the new film explores the emotional experience of black men, born out of those misconceptions. The men seem both vulnerable and powerful as they thoughtfully respond to these basic, but piercing, questions. To the viewer, there’s a feeling that you’re eavesdropping on a therapy session. “That’s the response that I would get after wrapping the interview,” Shikeith, who goes by his first name, tells NPR’s Arun Rath. “The participants, the men, they would say, ‘I haven’t been able to express like this in so long and it feels like a weight was lifted off of my shoulder.’ ” He says most of the interview subjects were strangers, but it wasn’t hard to get them to participate. “Honestly, I just asked — and that was the point. These questions, as simple as they are … they aren’t discussed. I couldn’t remember a time when someone asked me, ‘How do you feel?’ ” he says. “I think it’s just assumed that I’m angry as a black man. It’s assumed that I don’t possess these feelings that are part of my humanity.” Shikeith does all of his work in black and white and says the aesthetic composition of this piece — the nudity, the fact that we never see the faces of the subjects — is all symbolic. “I wanted to expose what it was like to be dressed in assumptions, before even opening your mouth to say hello.” MORE