On this episode of our interview series, Cameo, we sit down with director Khalik Allah to discuss Field Niggas, a documentary that gives a voice on the poorest residents of Harlem, in the night, at the corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue. Preview the film: vimeo.com/105240463. View more of his work at khalikallah.com.
In a speech by Malcolm X, the “field negroes” were the most downtrodden of slaves: those forced to work the fields and who had nothing to lose, as opposed to the “house negroes,” who were better fed and dressed for their work in the master’s house, where they also lived. It is today’s “field slaves” that photographer Khalik Allah gives a voice by focusing his camera on the poorest residents of Harlem, in the night, at the corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue. They are people we often try to avoid seeing – homeless, addicted – who we now hear in timeless tones and with flashes of great beauty, thanks to the director’s unexpected stylistic choices: asynchronous sound, elegant slow-motion shots and garishly saturated colors. Depicting a rich emotional reality as it also offers a subtle political and cultural diagnosis, the film is an unusual mix of sociology, argument, and art.