Screening of Solange film prompts viewers to think about home, race and identity

Film still from “When I Get Home” by Solange Knowles. Photo Courtesy of the ICA

Iman Mekonen, Spectrum Editor

Blue hues and glitter fringe suits. Black men riding white horses in the night. A crowd of homogenous dancers moving in a wave-like motion. These are the opening scenes in Solange Knowles’ newest project, a short film titled “When I Get Home.”

The film accompanies Knowles’ 2019 album of the same name and is her directorial debut. Both the album and the film serve as an ode to her hometown of Houston.

The Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU hosted a screening of the film on Friday as a part of its inaugural First Friday celebration of the school year.

“When I learned about Solange’s film, I was instantly excited,” said ICA film curator Enjoli Moon. “I’m personally a Solange fan. I think that her aesthetic is something that is speaking to a larger group of people.”

She said she thought it was something that would interest people in Richmond, including VCU affiliates. As a curator, Moon said she tends to gravitate toward narratives of black and brown people on a global scale. 

“Those stories are underrepresented and undertold in institutions. For us to be committed to expanding what it means to be an artist and for your stories to have value,” Moon said, “and to be able to create a space for you and to elevate you in institutions like this one, I think is extremely important.”

Throughout the film, Knowles appears in several afro-futuristic outfits and hairstyles while performing different dances. Despite this, the film’s mood is consistent. Several of the scenes are neutral toned with brown, black and cream colors — with every scene representing a vibrant story. Everything from the outfits and backgrounds fit perfectly with the record’s artwork. 

“It’s [the film] monochromatic in the color grading and scheme, but it’s also something monochromatic about the energy of the movie itself. It’s stable and keeps you at this certain tone and this range,” Moon said. 

With an all black dance crew, the film highlights elements of Houston’s Western history with cowboy hats and fringe outfits.

“When I learned about Solange’s film, I was instantly excited,” said ICA film curator Enjoli Moon. “I’m personally a Solange fan. I think that her aesthetic is something that is speaking to a larger group of people.”

The film begins with her repetitive poem, “Things I Imagined.” As the title is repeated throughout the song, the camera exposes a neutral-colored view of a building. It then pans over to a figure in a silver-studded hood. The following scene shows a deep teal vision of Knowles dancing with a jewel-encrusted figure.

These eye-catching visuals combined with her silky vocals create a calm and serene tone, also throwing in a bit of chaos here and there. 

The video for “Down with the Clique”, screened afterwards, presents shots of downtown Houston’s architecture as well as several backup dancers wearing cowboy hats, riding horses and square dancing. 

Songs such as “Dreams,” “Almeda,” “Things I Imagined” and “Way To The Show” feature little to no variation within the lyrics. It’s repetitive, but calming. After watching the film, it’s hard to listen to the album without visualizing every scene.

In the video accompanied by her song “Way to the Show,” Knowles’ face is at the center of the camera, moving effortlessly with her backup dancers. It almost looks like she’s talking directly to the viewer.

The background dancers are crucial to the overall feeling of the film, whether they’re the focus of the scene, dancing right beside her or acting in a performance. 

The video for “Binz” is shot as a home video on a laptop camera, with Knowles dancing around in a carefree manner, twerking and simply enjoying her life. Knowles dances in a carefree motion, which fits perfectly with the playfulness of the song with its pop beats and in-your-face lyrics.

Solange’s visual representation of the album takes viewers on a journey through her childhood and hometown in the film’s real location, showcasing Southern culture. It’s visually appealing with flawless choreography and storylines.

"When I Get Home" Film Screening
The Institute for Contemporary Art hosted a screening of Solange Knowles' short film, "When I Get Home." Photo by Jon Mirador
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