Freedom from the barrel of a camera.
Words by Antonino D'Ambrosio, La Lutta NMC (from As an Act of Protest press packet)
On May 13th, 1985 on a quiet street in a predominantly black neighborhood in Philadelphia, the police department dropped a bomb on a house where a radical black communal group called MOVE resided. There was only one survivor and many of those that perished were children. In 1997 Abner Louima was sodomized with a plunger in a Brooklyn police precinct by four police officers. In 1999 Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times in the foyer of his building in the Bronx by four white police officers. These are just some of the terrifying examples of state oppression fueled by racism and a complete disregard for human life that has come to define American society.
While these are some of the more notorious and well-known instances of state sanctioned torture and execution, there are countless incidents of harassment and violence that many people of color are forced to bear on a daily basis which go unnoticed and are irrelevant to a larger society that feel 'we are all one now' irrespective of race and class. Some of us know different. The reality is clear and made painfully so not just by external oppression but also by internal oppression. Aided and abetted by what shamefully passes as media (and when I refer to media I mean everything from entertainment to newspapers) in this country, the insidiousness of institutionalized racism, classism, and sexism have ripped humans apart.
For those of us who choose to challenge social injustice and seek a more equitable society via what we at La Lutta NMC call new media (the use of digital video for example by people historically excluded from having a voice), the difficulty lies in translating the truth of the day-to day reality of encountering these issues and struggles to a public that has largely been conditioned to be aphetic at best, skeptical perhaps, and dehumanized at worst.
Consequently, La Lutta NMC understands that the most important defense against the persistent attack on culture and community are those Creative Activists who seem to move the mountains that society has buried them under. It is these people who with great effort endeavor to create pockets for true self-expression and representation while asserting that living is not submission but reinvention, creation.
We have been very fortunate to work with and support once such person, Dennis Leroy Moore. DLM, an accomplished actor/writer/director, continues to resist the silencing of his voice and those of his creative community. A survivor of the National Black Theater struggle, DLM has crafted a film that on the surface examines the destructive effects of racism on people of color and America.
As an Act of Protest is more than just simply the story of racism, state oppression, or violence and brutality. The film is a line in the sand representing what so few American films can't event begin to capture cinematically: universalism and humanism. Impressive? Absolutely. Then again, what is even more remarkable for a film shot in a month with little money is its beautiful aesthetic (color and scene set-ups), technical superiority (lighting and sound), and stunning acting (many of whom are non-professionals). All marks of excellent direction.
As a creative activist, DLM works hard to destroy misconceptions and build a reality where people are free to create work that is both cultural and political. As a filmmaker, DLM embodies the sensibilities of some of the great European directors mixed with our own John Cassavetes, James Baldwin and a little Public Enemy and John Coltrane for good measure. As a person Moore has laid his soul bare for all not only to see but also feel.
The camera is DLM's weapon of choice but what he produces is not destructive but rather constructive. The film, shot in digital video, is contradictory from start to finish-heroic and tragic, cynical and hopeful, ugly and beautiful, painful and healing. It is a reflection of a people who have not only lost their way but were never allowed to have a way to begin with. For a 26 year-old it is obvious that DLM has spent his time wisely, for it is all these qualities that allow his film to bring forth stories, lives, communities that exist among us every day invisible, ignored and pushed to the margins.
"For me the last hope for freedom, to break the repression, fight racism-all of it" Moore cried at a discussion following the screening of his film at the closing night of the Visual Liberation Film/Talk Festival, "is found in the ability to create and if you take away someone's ability to create, to express themselves, their dead".
Dennis Leroy Moore has warned us all about something we know exists but choose to ignore in fear of disrupting our perceived comfortable, equal, all-middle-class American society. As Cairo Medina, the main character of As an Act of Protest, declares "I'm sorry I destroyed the illusion".