When one of our alumni, especially the esteemed former film editor Levi E. Aluede makes a creative project; we are first on hand to support their creativity. Previously Aluede directed the documentary Freedom: Black Hands, White Flags; which focused on the Black Lives Matter movement, and this time around the young filmmaker has explored what it’s like to be mixed race growing up in London in the short documentary Complexion. It’s short 11 minute runtime is entirely to the point and captures the insights of Karolina, Dylan and Idara, who discuss their respective upbringings.
In a world so seemingly hellbent on maintaining the horrific blight of racism (i.e. Charlottesville), it is somewhat inspiring to see young people speak with such freedom and confidence regarding their racial backgrounds and speak without fear of judgement, which unfortunately is a constant source of hatred directed from the primitive apes who call themselves the ‘Alt-Right’, who we all know are just racist fascists.
Karolina, who is of Polish/Somalian descent, discusses the intrigue of others who can’t work out her racial backgrounds, saying actually she likes the fact people don’t know where her family is from, and when they do find out, say “oh that’s weird” to which she replies: “yeah I know”, but she is confident and proud of her background as everyone should be. Which inspires hope that hopefully one day everyone can be as confident without the fear of judgment, but right now that day seems very, very far away.
Dylan however, discusses his family from an entirely different angle, describing the clear split between his Mum’s side of the family and his Dad’s, something that has actually caused him have a conflicted upbringing in terms of how he identifies himself within his own family, which in itself is mind-blowing. He discusses his double barrelled surname, and the fact his parents throughout his life would take him both to church and to temple and once he turned 18 they asked him which name he would take, which he talks about with such shock in his voice, baffled that his own parents could expect him to choose between his own family, to decide which aspect of his background he identifies with most.
Dylan also talks about how people have said mixed race creatives tend to have benefits in terms of how they see the world because of their culture, which he doesn’t believe to be true as he says he’s just “doing my own wave and I don’t think it goes down to the mix”. Comparatively speaking, Dylan doesn’t discuss being mixed race from the outside looking in but talks about his own at times divisive upbringing, which brings to light interesting points regarding his own identification within his family.
Idara talks about her upbringing, which was within a Jamaican culture with the Jamaican side of her family, but also talks about a “sense of connection” upon returning to Nigeria, where the other side of her family and a different culture exist, about which she discusses her dad really wanting to integrate her into. Evidently, this is a person who is happy to embrace both sides of her background, much like Karolina, as she speaks about it with an assurance and honesty, without the feeling of picking a favoured side, and a proudness about the different cultures that she gets to be a part of.
The other, brutally honest element of what Idara discusses relates to her community work as a creative youth practitioner. She discusses a young girl who is half black/half white, who struggles to identify with either side of her background and cultures, despite living with her African family. Sadly this lack of an identity has caused her to behave disruptively, but when called upon to discuss youth culture, she is the very first to raise the point of race and identity being a huge part of youth culture, sadly telling the story of how kids at her primary school wouldn’t play with her because she was “yellow”. This is a harrowing, emotive story as it shows that problems with racial tensions can be started from youth, and if children are brought up to hate someone because of their ethnicity, then the world is simply going to deteriorate further.
Overall, Aluede has directed an intelligent, honest documentary that brings to light issues and elements of identity and race that tend to stray from mainstream ideas, and it is refreshing to see young people talk about their own lives and cultures with such confidence and honesty, despite the constant threat of judgment by deplorable racists. Stylistically, Aluede has created a smart looking piece that complements the discussions, with clever framing, slick cinematography and an appropriate accompanying soundtrack. A must watch for those who seek a better understanding into cultures beyond their own.