The Giverny Document (Single Channel)
In this multi-textured cinematic poem, filmmaker Ja’Tovia Gary unleashes a slew of riotous techniques and materials—from direct animation on archival 16mm film to woman-on-the-street interviews and roiling montage. What emerges is an ecstatic document, as vibrant and dynamic in form as it is politically incisive.
The Giverny Document (Single Channel) is a meditation on the safety and bodily autonomy of Black women. It moves from the beating heart of metropolitan New York—where Gary shoots interviews on location, deftly conversing with generations of women and girls in Harlem—to the pastoral surrounds of Claude Monet’s eponymous gardens in Giverny, France. Against the verdant backdrop of the latter, Gary interleaves strands of direct animation like momentary glitches or infections into the scene’s bucolic atmosphere. The artist appears in the shot—at times recumbent, sometimes strolling through the historic French gardens. She is a paragon of self-possession, her own muse. She is, in many ways, a compelling riposte to art-history’s servile negress. And through the interpolated footage of the legendary Nina Simone, Gary reminds us that Black femme performance’s creative, virtuosic force is her lodestar—complemented by the febrile animations woven in and out of this forty-minute polyptych. The Giverny Document (Single Channel) unleashes a sensibility at once documentary, musical and painterly, pushing the bounds of abstraction and figuration through its whirling mass of forms, sounds and Black subjects—subjects who live in the wake of slavery’s seismic aftermath.
—Tendai John Mutambu