USA | 8 minutes | 2020
Drama short film by Julia C. Liu
Starring Cloteal L. Horne
Watch the Trailer
Driving While Black Magic
In the absurdist world of Providence Plantations, a spiritual woman works to decolonize her thoughts. While driving home from her job at the sleep lab, she tries to block out news of another state sanctioned killing. After narrowly missing a run in with police, the line between reality and a waking nightmare begins to blur.
2020 was a year of reckoning in many ways. The Black Lives Matter movement regained momentum and saw a resurgence earlier this year after the death of George Floyd. Driving While Black Magic from director Julia C. Liu and writer Vatic Tayari Kuumba is a timely film that explores the very real anti-black world that Black people must navigate in their daily lives through an absurdist lens. The film does an incredible job at exploring the question: How can you decolonize your own thoughts when you’re constantly faced with the presence of structural racism and state violence?
The film takes place in a fictionalized world of the State of Rhode Island, whose official name is “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” The name symbolizes a legacy of slavery and oppression; “Providence Plantations” was only recently voted to be removed. Our protagonist, Nadege (Cloteal L. Horne), works at a sleep lab where she isn’t respected. Before she leaves for a long commute home after working late, she casts a protective spell. She uses her drive as an opportunity to decolonize her thoughts, blocking out the news of protests that were sparked by another state sanctioned killing and turning on her self-help tape, reciting the teachings of Obeah the Spirit Mother (voice of Becky Bass). The film uses symbolism and imagery very well to convey the fear and anxiety Nadege feels, and to help blur the lines between reality and fantasy.
The cinematography, editing, and art direction throughout are beautifully done to create a very particular world for a visual story that has us on the edge from start to finish. From the repeated imagery, intense sound design that builds and builds, and a camera tightly framed on our protagonist’s face, Liu makes sure we feel everything from anxiety and dread to fear and tension, delving into a surreal world that mirrors a very, very real nightmare.
The film is still currently in the festival circuit.
Driving While Black Magic is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your film.
Director, Producer, Editor: Julia C. Liu
Creator, Writer, Producer: Vatic Tayari Kuumba
Producers: Joanne Bartholomeusz, Keith Heyward
Cinematographer: Katherine Castro
Also featuring: Becky Bass