Black death in contemporary cinema requires understanding how film blackness always means provoking new entangled measures of the aesthetic, political, social, and cultural capacities of black visual and expressive culture. As a result, the critical consequence of film blackness always entails issues of affect, narrativity, visual historiography, and genre/modalities. Black death, then, signifies both the violent injustice of African American deaths and the rendering of death in cinema. Three short films by black women filmmakers represent an ever-growing archive of recent works that merit critical attention as they advance cinematic practices that point to new political philosophies and circuits of knowledge related to black death and film form. Taken together as a “cinema in the wake,” the three—Leila Weefur's Dead Nigga BLVD (2015), Frances Bodomo's Everybody Dies! (2016), and A. Sayeeda Clarke's White (2011)—pose a range of formal propositions about black death that include animation, the racial grotesque, and speculative fiction.
With distinct and compelling conceptions of black death, these three short films are deeply located in their contemporary American moment. Thinking with these films involves thinking through performing objects, the racial grotesque, and the futurity of social deletion. Together these films exquisitely suspend, disrupt, and disturb constituting distinct visual historiographies and strategies. As cinema in the wake, these films are stirred by incitements of film form, materiality, temporality, and conceptions of black being. But, more importantly, to think through black death across the formal experimentation and critical capacities of this work is to contend with an enduring urgency, the precarity of black life.