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Made in America: The Cinema of Kevin Jerome Everson

MUBI Special

As the United States of America is in the midst of a paroxysm of self-evaluation about the presence of African American filmmakers and black stories in Hollywood and high-profile independent moviemaking, we spotlight a fascinating and essential director whose remarkably prodigious career over the last 20 years—deeply personal, socially acute, culturally embedded, persistently curious, and formally adventurous—has not been shown nearly as broadly as it should.

The multi-disciplinary Kevin Jerome Everson, widely recognized by festivals (Toronto, Rotterdam, Venice, Sundance, Oberhausen) and arts institutions (Whitney Museum, Centre Pompidou) with premieres and retrospectives, has created a sprawling body of cinematic work ranging from shorts to epics, bountiful in its observation—and playful re-telling and re-creation—of black experience in the United States. Its subjects are Black Americans and people of the African diaspora engaged in daily labor, sport, leisure, at work, at play, living their lives, talking of the past, family, craft, jobs; and the films’ formal qualities—durational takes, use of archival footage, staged scenarios combined with documentary practice—create a cinema suggestive of the relentlessness of daily life, as well as its beauty. Yet nothing, neither these everyday lives, nor the style of Everson’s disarming approach—which often seems like pure documentary but finds manifold ways to tweak and challenge such accepted conventions—are so straightforward.

MUBI is proud to present what, within Everson’s filmography of over a hundred works, can only be a survey of some of the essential, yet under-exposed pictures by this great American artist, including his first feature Spicebush (2005), two of Everson’s award-winning shorts, and one of his latest features, Tonsler Park (2017), about workers at an election polling station in Charlottesville, Virginia. We encourage you to immerse yourself in an entirely different side of America—and American filmmaking.

Spicebush

Kevin Jerome Everson United States, 2005

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Made in America: The
Cinema of Kevin Jerome
Everson

We conclude our close-up on Everson’s distinctive work with his feature debut. Melding different registers and types of footage, an episodic, expansive view on black America emerges breathing with poetic and political pulse. A mysterious little girl is a leitmotiv, the chorus of this composition.

Three Quarters

Kevin Jerome Everson United States, 2015

Under the interrupted gaze of cinema, Kevin Jerome Everson offers us two magic tricks in this minimal tribute to the craft of street magic. An aptly mysterious object, Three Quarters at once expands Everson’s project of expressing dextrous skills while also abstracting them in further enigma.

Ears, Nose and Throat

Kevin Jerome Everson United States, 2016

We continue our retrospective devoted to Kevin Jerome Everson with one of the American artist’s best shorts. By juxtaposing a doctor’s visit with the re-telling of a tragic tale, the film movingly evokes the visceral impact that experience, memory, and trauma can have on the human body.

Cinnamon

Kevin Jerome Everson United States, 2006

In his debut film, a multi-faceted exploration of drag racing in the Midwest, Kevin Jerome Everson fully encompasses the community, ecstasy, and expertise of this unusual sport. Gently drifting between fiction and reality, Cinnamon is an eloquent expression of black unity and excellence.

Quality Control

Kevin Jerome Everson United States, 2011

Next in our Kevin Jerome Everson series is a feature that showcases the artist’s devotion to spending time with and making images from the working-class, in a culture where labor is most often hidden by popular media. Long takes create a fascination with the details, rhythms and expertise of work.

The Island of St. Matthews

Kevin Jerome Everson United States, 2013

An American community’s past and present are gorgeously evoked in this new entry in our series. Everson’s work seamlessly fuses naturalism with staged scenarios, and this film expands on how creation can blend with nature through one of the artist’s sculptures: a functioning bronze church bell.

Tonsler Park

Kevin Jerome Everson United States, 2017

Presenting a new retrospective on the American director Kevin Jerome Everson, a multi-disciplinary artist who reveals through documentation and sly play the black experience in the US. This exemplary feature offers necessary perspective of the people who give their time to the democratic process.

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