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Before I Let Go: Film Screening & Discussion

Join us for a special film screening hosted by filmmaker Cameron Granger, with guest filmmakers cai thomas and Bobby T. Luck. 



We invite you to join us for a special screening of Cameron Granger’s film Before I Let Gocreated during his residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2022, alongside Change The Name (2021) by cai thomas, and Was It Your Trigger Finger (2023) by Bobby T. Luck. A short Q&A session will follow the screening.

Before I Let Go is the latest film from artist Cameron Granger. Set in the fictional town of Bad City, 5 years after a giant monster attack leveled the city’s east side neighborhood, the film follows a documentary filmmaker’s experience covering the community’s recovery efforts.


The Before I Let Go Summer Tour is a series of free screenings at several community and artist-run spaces across the midwest and east coast. Each screening is free and features two filmmakers from or making work in each specific venue.

Each stop on the tour is self funded. If you would like to support the programmers of the tour you can do so here. Your donation will go towards travel, guest filmmaker stipends, and each hosting venue.


You can read more about the tour, and see what other venues they’ll be stopping at here.


Cameron A. Granger is Sandra’s son & came up in Cleveland, Ohio. Inspired by the rigorous archival & homemaking practices of his grandmother, Pearl, Granger uses his work as a means to quilt his communal and familial histories, into new, not just potential, but inevitable futures. He’s an alumni of Euclid public schools, Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, and the Studio Museum in Harlem AIR program.


cai thomas is a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer based in Chicago telling stories at the intersection of location, self determination, and identity about Black youth and elders She grew up in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood and is deeply interested in stories rooted in place. Her film Change The Name which follows young activists organizing in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival and was broadcast on BET. Her previous film Queenie about a Black lesbian elder in Brooklyn’s Bed Stuy neighborhood premiered at NewFest in 2020 winning the NY Short Grand Jury award and is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel. cai recently completed Beneath The Surface which documents data scientist and journalist Trina Reynolds Tyler investigation into gender based violence at the hands of the Chicago Police Department and is digitally distributed by PBS’ Independent Lens. cai is a proud NeXt Doc Fellow.


An intimate portrayal of Black youth organizing on the west side of Chicago, ‘Change The Name ‘follows a group of 5th graders from Village Leadership Academy as they embark on a campaign to rename Stephen A. Douglas Park after freedom fighters Anna Murray and Frederick Douglass. Over the course of the three-year grassroots campaign the students tackle bureaucratic Chicago Park District systems, underestimations of their capacity to make real change as well as a pandemic and global uprising.


Bobby T. Luck is a visual artist and education activist based in Chicago, IL who works in film, multimedia collage, sculpture, and installation. After relocating to Columbus from Philadelphia he jump-started the Free Skool for Humans initiative, co-founded MINT Collective, and taught collage and film theory workshops across the country. Luck now works as Program Director for Roots & Culture Contemporary Art Center.


Where do your values begin and your influences end? Who told you you weren’t safe? Did you believe them? We have been trained since childhood via pop culture government intervention to pull the trigger for a country that had us constantly in its sites. Prison bed, coffin, or barracks?


Our protectors offer us an illusion of choice, while the soft buzzy blue hands of the tv stroke and mold our foreheads, assuring that our personal triggers were imported. ‘Was it Your Trigger Finger’ blurs the line between fact and fiction, exploring how military propaganda in media has shaped our views of where our country’s traumas lie, not within the home, but with a foreign adversary.


Works in EMERGENCE are diverse in their subject matter and media, but a few themes reappear throughout. Working in abstraction or in the traditionally peaceful genre of still life, artists like William Carter, Allen Stringfellow, and Jonathan Green express themes of interiority or sociability, history or modernity. Notably, Stringfellow and Ralph Arnold both experimented with media and materials and worked extensively in collage, which allowed them to combine abstract design, figurative imagery, and on occasion political ideas.

Viewers typically expect Black artists to focus on particular aspects of their social and political identities within their work. Where might those expectations come from? Still life, abstraction, and collage may express many different things about artists’ interior lives and their visual and social observation, whether connected to public manifestations of identity or not.

William Carter’s mid-century still life Untitled presents a group of vibrantly colored bottles that invite the viewer’s gaze, set against a similarly colorful background with floral elements like grapes and leaves. They give evidence of conviviality and might be interpreted as symbols of social gatherings, but they could also just be a collection of pleasing forms. We might put Carter’s still life in dialogue with that of Jonathan Green, who became close friends with Carter while living in Chicago. Green’s close-up view of an eloquently simple composition presents oranges, a pear, and a lemon in front of two vessels. Works like this piece call the viewer to examine the objects the artist chose to include, to consider how they interact with each other like bodies in space, and to reflect on their meaning within the traditional genre of still life painting.

Collage might suggest the piecing together of identity from different components that might not usually coexist, giving room for more expansive imaginations of meaning than a straightforward representational image might allow. It could also just be an inventive way of combining colors, shapes, and textures. Allen Stringfellow’s Untitled, a collage from 1962, brings familiar motifs from still life—fruit and flowers, desserts and glassware—together with imagery of artist’s models and performers. Layered with paint and tissue paper that frustrate the viewer’s attempt to get clarity on the subject matter, the bursts of form and colors hint at the splashy abstraction of Stringfellow’s untitled, textured painting made from house paint and particulate on cardboard. Here the artist tests commonly found materials to create new textures and plays with the creation of colors and finishes that diverge from “Western” academic painting methods.

In The Waiting, Arnold constructs a large collage from different paper components, lace, and paint. In the piece, elements of European and African art are placed in dialogue with one another, while some figures appear alone and isolated, others in large groups. Without giving easy answers, Arnold implies questions about social issues. Who is waiting, and for what? In his Love Sign II, which bears the words “Love is Universal,” Arnold asserts the equal validity of all types of romantic affection and love, utilizing collage to convey a more straightforward political message.