On Thanksgiving day, Cairo Medina (Che Ayende) visits author/Professor Walker Eastman (Ward Nixon) in an attempt to gain solace and understanding as he is descending into madness due to the police brutality and institutionalized racism around him. Eastman has prompted Cairo to take an interest in “Black alliance” and work with other African-Americans to improve their political situation in the West — but only when it is convenient for him. Although both characters give a strong argument, this memorably expressionistic scene is at once absurd and moving due to its acknowledgment that colonization & capitalism has succeeded in destroying the black community at large.
Made with an uncompromising passion, Dennis Leroy Kangalee’s powerfully strange film was an artistic response to the police murder of Amadou Diallo by the NYPD in 1999.
Made with the sweaty thrust of a political punk or hip-hop record, this “cinematic tone poem” was misunderstood by most establishment critics (‘too angry”, and not “hopeful” enough) and was the antithesis of a Hollywood Production, but found a life outside of America and within avant-garde and more politically progressive circles.
— Notes from Donald Griffith’s 2004-2005 Tanz Theater-Black International Cinema Festival program, Berlin & Paris Edition.
NOTE: This footage was re-assembled from various bootlegs and we’ve tried hard to retain the original sound, however difficult.
It was two days after the crash when I realized I had been given a second chance.
Although I did not know what had happened & only felt the transition taking place –I knew it meant opportunity: A new beginning. That’s how I interpreted it. And despite not being able to reference it in a bible or mantra – I knew it was a sacrament that had been given. If I could have danced, I would have. I’d glide along the edge of my sanity and gently leap off.
Perhaps I already had…
The Triple Threat Who Changed My Life: Artist & Dreamer Nina Fleck
Middle-Paleolithic cave drawing: about 12,000 years ago…
If a junkie can find a way to get high, so can the artist
Do what you must to support the habit
Some transgressions are worth committing if they bring just a fragment of truth
Sometimes the work we create is worth all the pain and disaster,
Worth the humiliation and mockery,
And once in a blue moon it’s even worth the loneliness
So think globally, act locally,
And, if you can,
Create art whose beauty will last
At least as long as man’s ugliness.
She was a quote whore and had legs like a seagull, beautifully bent as if awaiting take-off, eager to follow the visiting ships. We’d wheeled hypnotically for hours at a time once before in different corners of the world, often flapping in a cul-de-sac of frustration. I had learned of her through a truncated message tossed from a virtual skyscraper and tried my best to reciprocate.
I’d spent the better part of my life on the wing, but my wandering had slowed when too many of my fellow searchers were snared in world wide webs devoted to no one but the faceless spirit of the machine.
She sat like a beautiful Spider Monkey cross-legged on volcanic stone, waiting at the wall.
I caught a glimpse of her from above and behind, through the scalding chinks of the coppers’ chains and the dimmed windows of their Chevy Impala. There were crumbs and old newspapers and a crushed coffee cup kept rolling back and forth under the passenger seat. They picked me up for rolling a cigarette outside of Central Park – I wasn’t even smoking, I was just rolling it. They said I broke the law and was loitering and would have to be booked and they said they had witnesses. They drove around for a while and went back to the park entrance where they snagged me. My cigarette was still on the cobblestone. They asked around if anyone had seen me rolling the cigarette. The hotdog vendor just stared at them. He must have thought it was funny.
They shoved me back in the cruiser. Now they were pissed. They drove a bit, then laughed as they blared the siren and slapped me around a bit. I wanted to fight back — but if my fury had gotten the best of me I’d never make it to the wall.
They beat me so badly, a couple of the dead mariners’ souls’ tumbled out of me spilling onto the corroded seats of the car. I began to wonder if they would turn my feet into tobacco pouches.
Destroy the Medium, destroy the message=destroy the problem.
Punk+Hip-Hop+Acting+Directing equals a new guerrilla filmmaking aesthetic.
If the Clash and Public Enemy had been filmmakers, what and how might they have expressed? The answer could be this startling clip from that short-lived movement’s crystallized example: Dennis Leroy Kangalee’s cinematic tone poem “As an Act of Protest.”
In this scene, Cairo (Che Ayende) erupts and destroys his television that has just featured the Mayor on a program where he defends police brutality & the murder of Cairo’s young brother, George. It is at this very moment that Cairo has already crossed the line and is no longer able to look back…
This visceral feature film from 2001 is a clear ‘line in the sand’ which demands the eradication of racism and, sadly, relevant and meaningful in light of the murders of Aiyana Jones and Trayvon Martin. The movie was originally conceived in 2000 as a direct response to the Mayor Giuliani-Administration’s-NYPD murder of Amadou Diallo in 1999. For obvious reasons, “As an Act of Protest” has become of one of the underrated gems of the 21st Century American independent film movement.
“What happened to the brother on the block? He turned into a Starbucks!”
Inspired by the Twilight Zone, the comedy of Pryor & Mooney, Theater of the Absurd, & the Folkways Spoken Word Recordings, this darkly-poetic satire about corporate-friendly gentrification in “21st Century Urbana” was recorded in one take in May 2010 and was mixed by Isaiah Singer, who applied spare musical arrangements and sound effects to support the “surreal midnight vulnerability” of Kangalee’s reading. The result is a perfect introduction to Dennis LeRoy Kangalee’s dramatic spoken word and fiction. It was the first installment in a series detailing the gross bizarre suburbanization of NYC and, of course, led to his theatrical realization of “Gentrified Minds(The NY Horror Vol.2)” which includes an abridged version of this story via his now abandoned persona, the ‘Nomad Junkie’. .
“Raw, provocative, and demanding.”
— Cara Buckley, The Miami Herald
Commemorating the 13 Year anniversary of AS AN ACT OF PROTEST, a restored assembly of scenes has been uploaded and released on the web in an attempt to make parts of the film available to its cult fans and introduce it to a new generation as well.
Featuring a cameo by the Last Poets and original music by Michael Wimberly and Charles Gayle, this cinematic tone-poem is a “clear line in the sand” that demands the eradication of racism and police brutality and seems all the more, creepily relevant somehow in the aftermath of the murder of 7-year of Aiyana Jones and Trayvon Martin. Shot on the first Canon XL-1 on the cusp of the so-called “digital revolution”, this feature film was not only representative of a new “urban-guerilla cinema”, but a personal one as well, setting a bar for the new wave of protest art and ‘concrete basement’ film-making that took the ethos of early Rap and Punk and mixed it with a freewheeling desire to express the darker corners of our society and allow genuine rage (as opposed to the offensive, forced pandering of Hollywood media) back into the frame of American cinema. Ambitious and supremely flawed, what the movie lacks in formal technique it makes up with style, passion, and originality — just like a punk band or rap group might have done if they had made films instead of albums.
Gritty, strange, and unexpectedly poetic, this movies is an artistic response to the rampant police brutality under the Giuliani administration in the 1990′s, which culminated in the murder of Amadou Diallo in a hail of 41 bullets by four white NYPD officers, As an Act of Protest was deemed the best black film of 2002 by East Coast cultural critic Kam Williams and developed a cult following.
Not screened publicly in the USA since 2003, the master tapes were destroyed by Kangalee while living in Berlin, depressed and feeling a failure as a “protest artist” and nearly ashamed of his own past work. Renewed interest in the film came as a result of the publication of his poetry in 2010 and the more recent police brutality incidences and egregious examples of racism that only continue to prove that America is “walking in terrible darkness.” Both editor Isaiah Singer and Dennis Leroy Kangalee tried their best to salvage the most recent cut of the film and repair the shoddy sound mix.
“…Powerful…Almost more of a documentary than a feature film, As an Act of Protest aims to teach and shock and succeeds on both counts.”
— Walter Dawkins, Variety
Che Ayende as Cairo Medina, the actor who goes insane due to the racism & apathy around him
Re-discovered a decade later, the movie can now be seen as a coming of age story and meditation on colonization, class, violence, and what it means to be an artist–especially in times of great social turmoil and confusion. Although the film specifies “racism” as the eternal evil of society, it becomes a broad metaphor and can be applied to any form of oppression and any circumstance where brutality of thought or deed has encorached upon another living creature’s life.
The result is an exhaustive blend of neo-realism, expressionism, melodrama, and B-Movie Horror. Acerbic, urgent, and emotionally arresting at times — it deserves repeated viewings and the opportunity to be re-discovered. Boasting excellent performances, strong writing, and radical editing, it was Dennis Leroy Kangalee’s first movie and was made as if he knew it would be his only one.
“While watching As an Act of Protest, as was true in a Cassavetes film, I felt as though the principal actors weren’t so much acting as they were pouring out before the camera, depictions of the way people really behave…it is in the scenes where Abner and Cairo discuss with each other, their rage as African American men, that the film is so compelling.”
– Hugh Pearson, author of Shadow of a Panther: Huey Newton and the Price of Black Power in America
All the good people I know are defeated.
deep and lonely –
especially the voices stuck inside an echo chamber,
a poet’s words bouncing back and forth,
one can’t constantly
if it weren’t for the
the unreconciled romantics
that bear mountain
of a lonely head,
a near-ghosted spirit –
no beauty would ever
stand a chance,
would ever be bold
and crazy enough
of the soul.
The climax from my 2011 performance of “Gentrified Minds” in which the Nomad Junkie invokes the refrain from my earlier short story, “What Happened to the Brother on the Block?” — my surrealist tale about corporate friendly gentrification..one that has become more and relevant, especially in light of the sinister times we live in, the demise of community, and the psychopathic behavior of JP Morgan Chase & Co. With a nod to Gil Scott Heron, Lou Reed, and the spirit of the NYC protest poets — this was punk theater all the way…