Probably we have all once held a faded photograph of a relative in our hands searching for likeness and history in the gaze of the person portrayed. The Curaçao-born director Sherman De Jesus begins his film with such a photo, the only picture he has of his grandfather. In search of the photograph’s origin, the filmmaker arrives at Harlem and discovers the former photo studio of James Van Der Zee. In the 1920s, the photographer was part of the so-called Harlem Renaissance, the artist movement that revived the New York neighborhood and put it on the map as the cultural center of Black America. Novelist Toni Morrison admired the narrative calibre and humanity of Van Der Zee’s work and Sherman De Jesus, too, uses this quality for his film. He treats the spectacular visual and musical material with dramaturgical intelligence and thus evokes the zeitgeist of the Harlem Renaissance with astonishing immediacy. The film tells stories about human creativity, about finding and asserting one’s identity, and about resistance; back then against the lynchings, segregation, and the denial of perspectives for one’s future, today against persisting racism and the sell-out of a quarter which is so much more than just a place to live, be it for its old-established residents or for the community of newcomers. Sherman De Jesus, just like Van Der Zee, is a gifted storyteller; with only a small piece of personal history in his luggage, he embarks on a captivating journey back into the future.
Sherman De Jesus
Sherman De Jesus is an award-winning producer and director. His body of work as a producer includes prizewinning feature narrative films and documentaries like "The World According to Monsieur Khiar" (2015), "Souls of Naples" (2005), or "Boy Ecury" (2003). As a director, Sherman De Jesus has created "A Shtetl in the Caribbean" (2014). He also directed "Everything Must Change – Piet Zwart" (2012), which screened at DOKUARTS and many other renowned festivals. His films on art include "Jan Schoonhoven – Official 18977" (2005), which also screened at DOKUARTS, as well as at the Netherlands Film Festival, the EU Documentary Film Festival Russia, and the Visual Arts Festival Ecofilms Greece, "All is Light – Jan Henderikse" (2001), which won the award for Best International Documentary at the New York Film & Video Festival, and "The Zero Revolution "(2015), which entered the official selection at the Netherlands Film Festival and has screened at international museum venues such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York.