Kevin Jerome Everson

Date and Venue 19 October 2009, 7.30pm | Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver

Reviewer Kim Alison Fraser

While unavailable for an advance interview, and unable to attend the DIM Screening in his honour, Kevin Jerome Everson's body of work is poetic, compelling and insightful.The third Monday of every month, Vancouver filmmaker, writer and curator Amy Lynn Kazymerchyk programs an evening of experimental film at the Pacific Cinematheque. The DIM Cinema screening series celebrated its first anniversary this summer and has shown the works of Jean Genet, Maiko Tanaka, Sid Chow Tan and Stan Douglas to name only a few of dozens of artists featured in this intimate salon. Kazymerchyk became acquainted with Everson at a screening in Portland and invited him to be featured as part of DIM.

Everson's three feature films (Spice Bush, Cinnamon, The Golden Age of Fish)  and over 50 short films have exhibited at the Centre Pomidou in Paris, Whitechapel Gallery in London, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. 

Company Line, the 30-minute documentary about one of the first Black neighbourhoods in Mansfield, Ohio was the most non-experimental piece of the evening. While it provided a glimpse into the working class life of those who remain thirty years after dozens of families were relocated and the government land where their homes once stood was sold, the film lacked a central theme on which to build a strong story arc.

The opening scenes of the documentary set the viewer's expectations for a historical documentary that interviews former residents about their lives, their community and the trauma of forced relocation. The film ends up following half a dozen men who clear snow in the winter and leaves in the fall for the city's public works department. The main subject even says at one point, "If you want to interview the guys who lived in Company Line, they're gone now... done their 35 years and taken retirement." It would have been a real delight to see a documentary about the post-war migration of Blacks from the south to Mansfield, Ohio in the 1940s, their community, their struggles, their triumphs, and where they've all ended up.

Footage discovered from local newscasts in the early 1970s was riveting. Two shorts in particular demonstrate the pride, vision and patience of the Black community in dealing with racism, police brutality, and the dichotomy between the protection and self-sufficiency of all-Black communities, and the clash with ignorance and violence when integration ensues. The Reverend E. Randall T. Osborn, First Cousin, and Playing Dead featured the composure and dignity of two men: one who happened to be Martin Luther King's cousin and was trying to quell an angry race riot only to himself be roughed up by police, and the other about a young man who played dead so as not to be shot dead - as his companion had been -  in a racially-motivated ambush. 

To learn more about Kevin Jerome Everson, visit: DIM Cinema takes place at 7:30 p.m. on the third Monday of every month at Pacific Cinematheque:

© 2009 Kim Alison Fraser