Written & Directed by: #KashmirLeese
Kiwewe Nyeusi is Swahili for the words “black trauma.” Kashmir Leese’s self-written, produced and directed short feature stars himself in a film about isolation. As we begin to leave the UK’s dreary lockdown, with restrictions being eased and places of business reopening, it’s fitting to take a look back at the past few months and reflect. With Kiwewe Nyeusi, we’re shown the severe effects of trauma within the Black community.
After the deaths of many innocent Black people — including the most recent and unjust Breonna Taylor and George Floyd cases — people in several cities in the U.S. planned peaceful protests and rallied to make a stand against police brutality. With the useful tool of social media, including Twitter and Instagram especially, evidence of the inhumane way Black people are treated is widely accessible. Though useful for those not yet educated on systemic racism and how it’s embedded into our world, it can be especially traumatic for those within the Black community. To see displays of violence every day, not just in the streets but online through imagery, I can’t imagine how that would feel. I’ll never understand.
Thankfully, Kashmir Leese’s film is a window into that experience. He uses the UK’s lockdown as the casing for a deep character study. The film begins with him humorously accepting the challenge of remaining inside for the entire duration, however long that may be. But as the days ticked by, it became less relatable to me as a white person, and more of an educational piece. Scripted in a way that feels incredibly natural, allowing every line to sink in through long, intimate shots. The budget is something that didn’t cross my mind past the first 10 minutes, once I realised how smart the film is thematically. One line stuck with me and I’ll quote it here: “How do you love a person’s culture so much, but not the people?”
It’s an interesting question. One that I think many white people should be asking themselves. I don’t think I have the answer yet. This scene — starting with his mother checking in via text message — ends with Kashmir replying with a simple: “yep I’m fine.” As if everything has become so numb to him. There are a handful of skilfully performed scenes within the film, and because we’re watching a single person the whole time, it really works. The location never changes, we’re always inside the confines of a studio apartment.
The film of course does a much better job of describing all this than I ever could, so I hope that whoever is reading this gives it a watch. It’s a very simple but incredibly well handled film and Kashmir’s natural talent for storytelling is clear. The Black community needs our help, so don’t stop here. Continue the fight and prove that Black lives do indeed matter. The time for change is now.