ISAAC JULIEN: The Leopard
On our way back to Britain we made a special trip into Switzerland to see one of the infrequent installations of (our hero ; -) Isaac Julien’s film, The Leopard. The Leopard is the single screen version of Isaac’s WESTERN UNION: Small Boats, which also exists in three and five screen arrangements. In the quiet interior of Château Nyon, with not a single other visitor, we watched the film 4 times through and were totally moved.
In the last three weeks, with horror, we have read about the tragedies of two (or more) migrant boats capsizing off the coast of Italy and drowning more than 300 African migrants. We watched each story develop with disbelief; imagining the reality of more than 200 bodies floating in the sea- children too. We hadn’t read about The Leopard before seeing it, making it a potent recognition that the film concerns the very same subject of migrants drowning off the Italian coast.
Julien’s interweaving of material- dance, observational footage, performance and singing- creates a space in which to contemplate. The non-narrative, suggestive nature of The Leopard made my mind move far beyond the facts, into a subconsciously affecting cinematic world. There are no words throughout, and is so refreshing to experience film this more active way- filtering information through your own systems of understanding.
After the overstated quirkiness of so much of the work we saw in Venice, The Leopard was strikingly honest and unpretentious. I would even go as far as saying that this really is the best film I have seen for a long time.