Sketches and Portraits for Jean-Michel (2018)

Sketches and Portraits for Jean-Michel by Ephraim Asili | 11 mins | scored by Ibibio Sound Machine

Commissioned and premiered at Basquiat x Video Jam at the Barbican Hall, 28/01/18. The event marked the closing of Basquiat: Boom for Real, the first large scale exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s in the UK.

“Start with the streets, then chronicle the struggles of the people there.” - Ephraim Asili.

Shot on 16mm using a Bolex film camera, Sketches & Portraits for Jean-Michel is his tribute to an artist whose creative approach was, and continues to be, a significant personal influence. The film was mostly photographed on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, two areas familiar to Basquiat, and visually explores many of the themes and influences found in his paintings: street life, street art, politics, jazz, bodies in motion, bodies at rest, life, death, and black resilience.

The film also examines the life Basquiat in the light of his untimely death. Sketches & Portraits makes reference to a sculpture in Harlem by Elizabeth Catlett dedicated to the novel Invisible Man and it's author Ralph Waldo Emerson, next to which is engraved the following words: "His pioneering novel, Invisible Man (1952), details the struggles of a young African-American man in a hostile society". The same, suggests Asili, could be said of Jean Michel Basquiat’s oeuvre; arguably a famous "Invisible Man" of his own generation.

Ephraim Asili is a filmmaker, DJ, and traveler whose work focuses on the African diaspora as a cultural force. His films have screened in festivals and venues all over the world, including the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Milano Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, MoMA PS1, Museum of Fine Arts, and the Whitney Museum. Asili currently resides in Hudson, NY, and is a Professor in the Film and Electronic Arts Department at Bard College.