Tuesday, November 7 at 7:00pm
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Film Theatre, 5200 John R. St, Detroit
FREE admission

Opening Night in Detroit

Media City Film Festival kicks off its Opening Night in Detroit with an incredible FREE evening of film and music showcasing a retrospective look at the work of Ja’Tovia Gary, one of the United States’ most significant contemporary moving image artists. The night’s program also includes a rare performance by the Harlem-based multi-instrumentalist, mystic, and laughter meditation guru, Laraaji. Both artists will be in attendance at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Film Theatre.

With The Giverny Suite currently on view at The Museum of Modern Art through 2024, this retrospective of Ja’Tovia Gary’s films represents the Detroit premiere of her most recent film Quiet as It’s Kept (2023), a cinematic response to Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye. Ja’Tovia Gary’s work across documentary, video art, sculpture, and installation challenges notions of objectivity and neutrality in nonfiction storytelling by asserting a Black feminist subjectivity. Applying what bell hooks terms “an oppositional gaze” as both a maker and critical spectator of moving images, her work aims to unmask power and its influence on how we perceive and formulate reality. Gary’s films and installations serve as reparative gestures for the distorted histories through which Black life is often viewed. 

An Ecstatic Experience, 6 min, 2015
The Giverny Document, 41 min, 2019
Quiet as It’s Kept, 26 min, 2023

Screening followed by a musical performance by Laraaji.

Laraaji portrait by Jane Jones

Laraaji portrait by Jane Jones

To enjoy Laraaji’s work is to remember that the process of healing is infinite. In the context of the coronavirus and the current wave of resistance against white supremacy, his music is a reminder that the work of imagining a different world exceeds a lifetime. As the writer and activist Audre Lorde has noted, this work is part of a continuum, one that does not begin with one person’s birth or death. Laraaji offers us a nourishing call, one that asks us to briefly pause—to consider the restorative qualities of the sun, the gift of quiet contemplation, and the relief of a good, unexpected laugh—as we continue to fight.—Isabelia Herrera

Program Partners

This program is co-presented with Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Film Theatre; Trinosophes, and Allied Media Projects.

Image credits: all artworks, stills, and portraits courtesy of the artist © Ja’Tovia Gary.

About Ja’Tovia Gary

Ja’Tovia Gary (1984). Works in sculpture, installation, and film; exhibitions at institutions including Hammer Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Centre Pompidou. Seven films since 2012; screenings at venues including Locarno Film Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music, BlackStar Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, Toronto International Film Festival, and Harvard Film Archive. Work in the permanent collections of institutions including Whitney Museum of American Art and The Studio Museum in Harlem. Founding member (2013) of New Negress Film Society, a collective of Black women filmmakers. Creative Capital Award (2019), Guggenheim Fellowship (2022). Lives in Dallas, Texas.

About Laraaji

Laraaji (1943). Multi-instrumentalist specializing in piano, zither and mbira. One of new age music’s most distinctive, prolific, and charismatic artists. More than 50 releases from 1978–2023 on labels including Spirit Music, All Saints Records, and Numero Group; frequent collaborator with other musicians including Brian Eno, Audio Active, and Blues Control; performances at venues worldwide including Music Gallery, Kennedy Center, and Barbican Centre. Before his music career worked as a comedian and actor, appearing in Putney Swope (1969). Studied with gurus including Swami Satchidananda and Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati; practitioner of Laughter Meditation workshops since the 1980s. Lives in Harlem, New York.