Over eight years ago, Julian Johnson did me the honor of asking me to participate in a project that he now calls Limbo. Though he began with neither the experience nor the intent to make a film, being in France stripped away his inhibitions and released his creativity, allowing him to produce a powerful cinematic vision of contemporary black life in France.
I asked Julian to provide some background on himself and on why he was inspired to produce Limbo. Here is his reply:
Julian Johnson and his daughter NoraJane
© Kristina Naslund
© Kristina Naslund
"France and French have been in my life forever, beginning when my parents would speak French so that we kids couldn't understand what they were arguing about.
Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel spun on my dad's turntable - constantly - so love of things French was complete.
We were odd birds: a black tennis family! My grandfather coached Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. This meant that all of my siblings had to carry on the family business. We were often the only black kids at the tennis tournaments we played. Confusion about identity, race, class, where I fit and with whom, ensued - for decades.
Fast forward thirty five years. A racial profiling lawsuit has provided enough capital to stake me on a Paris sojourn for three months. I came to reflect, write, escape, as have so many others. I had no experience and intention of making a film.
But I kept meeting people who were questioning things, as I was, and as we spoke, I felt compelled to create something out of this questioning.
In the US, I had always felt shackled, tethered, hindered internally/spiritually, unable to create. Suddenly in Paris, I was planning a film, writing, collaborating, then working solo, asking fascinating people who I didn't know to sit down and talk about identity, home, race/racism, hair.
By depositing myself outside of the United States, I had acquired a freedom that I'd never felt before. I could do it."
Just a few days ago, Julian honored me again by allowing me to share an excerpt of his film with you.
Here's what he has to say about the film clip:
"I wanted to ask some French people questions similar to those I was asking the black subjects in the film. So these people were found randomly: the two African brothers while walking near Père Lachaise and the French woman sitting in a cafe on the Bastille circle. The music is by Mic Crenshaw, with Jana Losey "Under the Sun."
Watch the film clip here:
Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.