Khalik Allah, 30, is “the new kid on the block” in the world of film festivals with his film ‘Field Niggas’. In addition, he is involved with CPH:LAB and is the first ever to receive BRTIDOC Funds’ Genesis prize.
Khalik Allah is present at this year’s CPH:DOX with the film ‘Field Niggas’. He first put the film on YouTube and never thought that the interest in the film would be so great.
“I never thought I would be here in Copenhagen. I come from the street. I did not go to film school, yes, I suppose you could say that I come directly from the concrete,” says Khalik Allah and laughs out loud.
In ‘Field Niggas’ photography and film flow along the nightlife among the usually invisible New Yorkers on the outskirts of society on 125th Street in New York. Lost souls wandering the streets under the influence of booze, smoke, melancholy and madness. Allah documents (night)life with socially conscious street photography.
The beauty of reality
With his film Khalik Allah shows the beauty of reality: “Many believe that reality is not pretty. I find myself in a ‘bad’ environment with this film, but I throw light on the beautiful elements in it. The place looks poor on the outside, and one of my aims was to show how rich we really are – regardless of financial poverty,” he says.
Khalik Allah explains that the most important thing for him was to show dignity and respect for the people he was filming. For Khalik Allah it became sometimes an almost religious process, to give voice to the people, which for many are invisible:
“I wanted to shed light on these people. They deserve to be seen. I had no flash on my camera, so I had to actually ask people to step into a street light (walk me to the light), so it was almost a little biblical.”
Khalil Allah says that in the beginning people were extremely suspicious, and he was greeted with questions like “Who the hell are you?” and the standard question: “do you work with the police?”. Khalil Allah explains street rules: “When you go to the street at 2-3 in the morning, people will either respect you or rob you,” he says, slightly smiling.
However, he was soon accepted because he is known in the environment, both among people on the street and the police. He has taken photos in the area for three years: “It was a little funny that many people cannot differentiate between a photo camera and a video camera so they maintained their positions for so long because they thought I was taking a photo. I could use that in the film,” says Khalik Allah.
Besides coming to the festival to show ‘Field Niggas’ Khalik Allah has been selected to participate in this year’s CPH:LAB. CPH:LAB is CPH:DOX’s own talent programme, which annually selects 20 international filmmakers who are then paired across borders and nationality.
The 10 pairs spend a year to produce a movie together. Khalik Allah has teamed up with Danish Eva Marie Rødbro. He sees it as a huge advantage to work with someone who is so different from himself:
“Eva is a European white woman and I’m a black American. I have the opportunity to dive into the worlds that she cannot, and she has the opportunity to delve into into the worlds that I cannot.”
Khalik Allah hopes to create a film that can be a kind of communication gap between the black and white demographics. He is excited to be in the programme and to make a film that gives room to use each other’s differences, but also to use their own individual skills:
“I never went to film school, but CPH:LAB gives me the opportunity to educate myself. I’m really grateful for that.”
Pulse BRITDOC Genesis Fund
Khalil Allah’s next project is called ‘Jamaica’. He is the first to receive Pulse BRITDOC Genesis Fund grant of 5.000 pounds to complete the project: “I was lucky enough to meet Jess Search from BRITDOC at the True / False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri. BRITDOC was very interested in my next project, and have therefore chosen to support it. I’m really proud to be part of the BRITDOC family.”
The Pulse BRITDOC Fund is an international film fund supporting imaginary and innovative documentaries. The prize will be awarded ten times a year to filmmakers experimenting with form and approach to documentaries.