These moving images can elicit powerful emotions. It has the power to make us laugh or make us cry. It has the ability to cause fear or allows us to feel empathetic. Isn’t it crazy, that these emotions happen just from pretty moving pictures?
Because of this medium, I thought it would be best to highlight a Chicago filmmaker who specializes in creating just that; pretty moving pictures. He is none other than Amir George.
The first film I saw from Amir George was Shades of Shadows. It was a colorful blend of psychedelic swirls with shadows gliding across the screen. The energetic sounds and rhythms of African drums from 70’s reminiscent soul band The O’Mys set the scene. The six-minute film felt as if I was getting lost in a trance. There were various images of sacrificial offerings interspered with rainbow swirls. I asked myself what did I just watch?
Once you ask yourself this question, then you already know what to expect or what not to expect from Amir George.
The Alchemist Amir GeorgeA self-described alchemist, Amir George knows how to transform something out of nothing. His hands are his most important tools, as evident by the tattooed symbols that lay on his knuckles. In his own words those hands turn shit into gold. What was once just an idea comes to life through one of his visually stunning cinematic masterpieces.
With each Amir George production, we’re witnessing firsthand the marvels of his mind. I was drawn to his works because it was unlike anything I had ever seen, which makes it all the more intriguing.One could best describe his films as experimental. And with Amir being the alchemist, each film is a complex metaphysical experiment of sorts.
Amir shares that “I try to detach myself from the Western way of telling stories and creating movies”. Essentially, with Amir’s films don’t expect a clear beginning, middle, and end. Sometimes it can start dead in the middle and you the audience piece together the rest of the story from there. Anything goes with Amir as he is not confined to boundaries or limits. This process in a way births that WTF yet enlightened feeling you may get after watching.
However, after clear inspection of his films the message becomes very clear; it’s the ultimate and artistic celebration of blackness. From his work with Shades of Shadows all the way to Decadent Asylum, Amir George creates films that celebrates the stories of the African Diaspora.
As a filmmaker of color, Amir is someone who voluntarily gets in the passenger’s seat to tell stories in his own unique way. Whether that be through black mythology or just the everyday life of growing up in a black family, Amir George creates stunning imagery that makes you want to celebrate blackness.
It’s a deeper dive into history and untold stories. The glimpse of black life that you get through Amir’s films, makes you want to do your own exploration and discover more about this rich culture. Research and discovery are essential aspects of Amir’s process that have been part of his filmmaking journey since the beginning.
Growing Up in FilmGrowing up, Amir was constantly surrounded by film and photography. Conversations at the dinner table were about photography so at an early age he knew all about f-stop and aperture. As a child, Amir first stepped behind the camera by capturing still images of his photographer father.
While his journey started with still images, it was in high school when he fell in love with filmmaking after making a short film in high school. That film was an adaptation of the Shakespearean drama Macbeth; which is one of the richest and most intriguing stories of our time.
From creating the characters and telling a new take on the story, this was the moment when Amir fell in love with the process of filmmaking. In Amir’s words he “became attached to the process”. This process is how this alchemist creates something out of nothing.
Amir’s process involves pulling inspiration from his life experiences. His work is also deeply entrenched in research. He perfectly blends fiction and non-fiction by creating these mythical worlds that are still relatable to the viewer.
In Decadent Asylum we follow a spirit trying to find their way through various obstacles. Throughout the short film, the audience follows the journey of a spirit on a quest to discover the unknown. A pivotal scene in the film is where the spirit starts to bleed literal gold. Throughout all these obstacles and scenes, the culminating moment is when the spirit learns that they’ve had gold in them this entire time.
The metaphysical film was trippy at times, but it brings us back to the relatable nature of Amir’s films. Our main character discovers the gold within, and it is Amir that uses his works to inspire black filmmakers to discovery the “gold” that is within themselves.
The Black Radical ImaginationArguably it’s Black Radical Imagination that will cement the legacy of Amir George in our cinematic history books. What initially started as a black cinema space on the South Side, became a touring collection of black cinematic works.
Amir and his filmmaker friend Erin Christovale started screening the works of black filmmakers in both Chicago and LA. While Amir is mostly behind the camera, Black Radical Imagination allowed Amir to get from behind the scenes and seek out the work of his peers so he could give them a platform to showcase their talents.
After achieving success in both Chicago and Los Angeles, every major museum in the country wanted to host Black Radical Imagination. Everywhere from Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago to MoMa gave black filmmakers a much-needed platform.
Through Black Radical Imagination, black filmmakers and black audience goers were able to witness an unapologetically black exhibition, that celebrated not only blackness but black talent.
When talking about the success of Black Radical Imagination, Amir shares the importance of representation for people of color. He states, let’s say you have three black kids at a predominantly white film school. Those kids need to see films like the films in Black Radical Imagination.
They need to see and know that they too can create black films. That in a nutshell is the power of Black Radical Imagination and the power of the tenacity and drive of Amir George.
The Legacy of AmirWhile a young filmmaker, Amir is already well on his way to leaving a powerful legacy. In addition, many filmmakers in Chicago and beyond can credit Amir for their success.
When I asked Amir what he wanted to be known for, he shared that he wants to continue to inspire but ultimately he wants to continue “making pretty pictures”.
With a growing repertoire of films, we can expect plenty of pretty pictures from the incomparable Amir George.
Currently he has a residency in Miami, doing what he does best; sharing his stories through film.
Special thanks to Amir for agreeing to being a part of this feature. Thank you to Samantha Tarley for capturing our conversation so beautifully.