Fluid Frontiers, USA, 16mm, 23 minutes, 2017
In August 2016, Ephraim Asili filmed the fifth and final chapter of his famed Diaspora Suite in Windsor–Detroit. Shot exclusively on 16mm over the course of seven years in Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jamaica, and the United States, The Diaspora Suite was recently described by the Brooklyn Academy of Music as a “revelatory cycle of five short films collapsing time and space to reveal the hidden resonances that connect the black American experience to the greater African diaspora.”
Fluid Frontiers, the culminating film in the series, features community members form the Windsor–Detroit region. Named for the scholarly publication “A Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Resistance, and the Underground Railroad in the Detroit River Borderland,” the film was awarded Media City Film Festival’s Grand Prize (2017). Shot along the Detroit River border region, Fluid Frontiers explores the relationship between concepts of resistance and liberation exemplified by the Underground Railroad (the Detroit River being a major terminal point), and more modern resistance and liberation movements represented by Dudley Randall’s Detroit-based Broadside Press.
Fluid Frontiers cast: Teajai Travis, Tawana Petty, Deborah Lee, Bruce E. Davis, Jonni Ujama, Leslie McCurdy, Irene Moore Davis, Genoa O’Brien, Kim Duane Elliott, Marsha Music, and Efe Bes.
INTEGRAL WHIRLS: A DOSSIER ON THE WORK OF EPHRAIM ASILI > link here.
Fluid Frontiers by Ephraim Asili is the penultimate chapter in his multi-part series The Diaspora Suite (2011-17). He initiated it over the course of a residency in Windsor-Detroit as a commission from Media City Film Festival in 2016, and it won the festival’s grand prize when it was shown in the international competition the following year. As with all the films in Asili’s Diaspora Suite, Fluid Frontiers is shot on 16mm film. It devotes a loving gaze to Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario as key transnational points on a historical continuum of Black liberation. In fact, Fluid Frontiers might very well be the greatest homage ever paid to the city of Detroit in avant-garde film. – Greg de Cuir Jr.
THE NORTH WAS OUR CANAAN > link here.
According to the secret system of codes used by freedom seekers and abolitionists in the clandestine network known as the Underground Railroad, Detroit was known as “Midnight” and Canada, on the other side of the Detroit River, was known as “Canaan.” The North Was Our Canaan tells the rich story of Sandwich, Ontario (now part of the city of Windsor). We learn about those who crossed the Detroit River into Sandwich, seeking freedom from slavery and about the abolitionists who made Sandwich the base of their anti-slavery activism. These stories are told by descendants of those who undertook this daring quest for freedom and sought to forge a new life in Canada.
Key cast members (and supporters) who appear as readers in Fluid Frontiers have launched a new documentary and website with additional resources about the Underground Railroad in the Detroit River borderlands. The North Was Our Canaan (2020) is the first part in a larger project aiming to collect, document, and share the rich history and inspiring legacy of enslaved people who sought freedom in Canada. The accompanying film was funded by a University of Windsor SSHRC Explore grant.
Image credits: Broadside Press book covers from Ephraim Asili’s private collection, courtesy of the artist. Fluid Frontiers production stills by Oona Mosna, courtesy of the artist. Select carousel images to enlarge. This screening is co-presented with Three Fold Press and the Essex County Black Historical and Research Society.
Please consider making a donation to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. Curated by Oona Mosna.