The inherent overlap between practice and theory in the study of cinema has consistently acted as an underlying motive in my academic pursuits.
I hold a BA in Film (UNLV), an MFA in Film Production, directing (Florida State), and an MPhil Film and Screen Studies (University of Cambridge). As a filmmaker, my films have been fortunate enough to be selected into over 30 international film festivals, winner of nine festivals, including best screenplay, best director, best short film, and a finalist for HBO’s Aspiring Filmmakers Contest. My education as a filmmaker has taught me the importance of production and the profilmic event; not only how to tell a narrative story, but also how to present and arrange visual images that can elicit an affective response from the viewer.
Throughout my work as a filmmaker and fledgling film theorist, shifting between film production, post production, classical Hollywood film theory (Carroll, Burch, Bordwell), phenomenology (Sobchack), French film-philosophy and criticism (Deleuze, Bázin, Ranciere), political theory (Foucault, Jameson), and Russian formalism (Eisenstein, Vertov), I have striven to break down visual composition, penetrating the image for content, deconstructing mise-en-scene, lighting, and editing, for a productive frame-by-frame analysis of film, while engaging with cinematic history proper, and connecting these interests to wider theoretical concerns in both film production and film philosophy.
The first major one, that I began exploring at Cambridge, and wish to continue in my doctoral studies, is examining race and representation from a different perspective by focusing on a theoretically informed inversion: how race re-presents the visual image. Deliberately chiastic, the inversion grapples with the complex relations between the visual image, race and representation. Drawing on the reading of representation of Gayatri Spivak, especially in its political and aesthetic valences (i.e. representation as a standing in or speaking for another), and pairing Spivak’s formulation against/with the reading of race often rendered as re-presentation to signal the (deceptive, alluring) sense of something being made present again as theorized by hooks, Gillespie, Raengo, and Hall, and on the affective conception of the cinema theorized by Eisenstein, Vertov, and Bálazs, I am interested in how race represents or may re-present the visual image in black heroines and black culture in cinema, specifically, the new wave of black filmmakers (Barry Jenkins, Dawn Porter, Ryan Coogler) who challenge current tropes and presuppositions of race in Hollywood cinema. Deleuze makes the argument that to uncover a visual image’s truth we must rediscover that which has been hidden within that image. In this context, what is the political challenge for so many filmmakers today who fail to see what Deleuze sees, or better yet, what is the challenge for critics and theorists who fail to uncover a visual image’s truth, its “authenticity”? I believe those answers can be found by exploring race in the visual image in Blaxploitation, Afrofuturism, and the new black wave of film, where race is re-presented in its truest authentic form.