Watch: Barry Jenkins' Stunning 'The Gaze' Video of On Set Portraits
"In all my years of doing press, I've been repeatedly asked about the white gaze. Rarely have I been set upon about the Black gaze; or the gaze distilled." This is something. Filmmaker Barry Jenkins' latest is now available to watch on Amazon Prime - The Underground Railroad, a series set in the antebellum South. Jenkins explains that he finally had this realization about "the gaze" while working on filming this series, and started to shoot these dialogue-less moments during the production. Jenkins explains: "None of these shots are planned. Occasionally, when the spirit moved us, we stopped making the planned thing and focused on making THIS thing." He started filming background actors and extras perfectly posed, staring, gazing into the camera. Featuring gorgeous costumes by Caroline Eseline. And that magnificent score by Jenkins' regular, Nicholas Britell. It's hard to watch and not be consumed by emotions. It's a stunning work of cinema of its own, alongside the real series they were making, which is an additional layer of magic on top of what Jenkins usually pulls off with his films. It runs almost an hour long but all of is breathtaking.
Discovered directly from Barry Jenkins on Twitter. He explains on Vimeo the concept behind this: "I don't remember when we began making the piece you see here. Which is not and should not be considered an episode of The Underground Railroad. It exists apart from that, outside it. Early in production, there was a moment where I looked across the set and what I saw settled me: our background actors, in working with folks like Ms. Wendy and Mr. and Mrs. King – styled and dressed and made up by Caroline, by Lawrence and Donnie – I looked across the set and realized I was looking at my ancestors, a group of people whose images have been largely lost to the historical record. Without thinking, we paused production on the The Underground Railroad and instead harnessed our tools to capture portraits of… them.
What flows here is non-narrative. There is no story told. Throughout production, we halted our filming many times for moments like these. Moments where… standing in the spaces our ancestors stood, we had the feeling of seeing them, truly seeing them and thus, we sought to capture and share that seeing with you. The artist Kerry James Marshall has a series of paintings of ancestors for whom there is no visual record but for whom he has supplied a visual representation of their person. For me, most inspirationally, 'Scipio Moorehead, Portrait of Himself, 1776.'" Jenkins goes on more in the description to explain more about the painting. The video was edited together by Daniel Morfesis, directed by Barry Jenkins. It was during filming the Amazon show "The Underground Railroad" - which is now available to watch via Prime Video.
Jenkins ends the introduction poignantly by reminding us: "This is an act of seeing. Of seeing them. And maybe, in a soft-headed way, of opening a portal where THEY may see US, the benefactors of their efforts, of the lives they LIVED." For more info on this, visit Vimeo. To see more shorts, click here. Your toughts?