May 7, 2023
Which Way Is Up? s01e05 — Urban Rashomon + Field Niggas

New York-based photographer Khalik Allah captured his pictures of life on Harlem street corners with analogue cameras. His work is frank, direct, intimate, unflinching and beautiful — no wonder he collaborated with members of the Wu-Tang Clan and contributed to Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade. When Allah turned to filmmaking on video, it opened up radically new temporal and structural possibilities that are often overlooked by filmmaker peers. By basically directing his film in the editing room, and breaching the temporal relation between what you see on the visual track and what you hear on the audio tracks, the films of Khalik Allah become rhythmically complex, but totally captivating works of non-fiction that add expanding dimensions to his work as a street photographer. 

Presenting his short film Urban Rashomon (2013) alongside breakthrough film Field Niggas (2015), this double bill showcases the unbridled creativity of one of the most compelling directors working in the world of non-fiction right now. What sets Allah apart from many other directors in the field is his proximity and commitment to the subjects he photographs and films. Always returning to the same Harlem street corners, Allah’s work attains an ethnographic quality. Simultaneously, through his voice-overs, Allah reflects on his own position within the cinematic stories he creates. As such, Allah embraces the possibilities of digital cinema through his non-linear video work, and by doing so, manages to capture the multiplicitous nature of urban life that often doesn’t translate to film. 

Title: Urban Rashomon + Field Niggas | Director: Khalik Allah | Year: 2013 & 2015 | Runtime: 21 min & 60 min

About the programme: Which Way Is Up? is a recurring film series curated by film critic Hugo Emmerzael, offering critiques and reflections on our postmodern, late capitalist hellworld through the lens of digital film — from mainstream blockbusters to experimental cinema.