‘As a Matter of Black’: Documentary Connects Art and Activism in Columbus
As a Matter of Black, a new documentary by filmmaker Donte Woods-Spikes, will be screened with other local films at Sundance Film Festival’s first-ever program of constellation theaters, taking place at Gateway Film Center.
The film from Woods-Spikes documents the movements taking place inside of Columbus and spotlights artists and activists, while highlighting the intersection between art and activism.
“Downtown, you saw that they had all these different paintings that spoke to the times and what was going on right now,” he said. “And also, you saw a lot of activists that were stepping up and working alongside families and protesting, and they’re doing everything possible to make sure that the message was heard.”
Woods-Spikes set out to make the film in hopes it would convey how powerful art and activism is in Columbus, and how both can be utilized during and before times of injustice.
“It would be cool if it was something that we just continue to do and not wait until something like this happens,” he said.
The film highlights Francesca Miller, whose mural work was featured prominently Downtown during the protests, and Stacey Little, a Columbus State Community College alum who has pushed for the controversial Christopher Columbus statue to be taken down long before it was.
Woods-Spikes also spoke with Adrienne Green, an activist and the mother of Henry Green, a Black man killed by Columbus police in 2016, and mixed-media painter Richard Duarte Brown, who Green later connected with to throw a private event for the families of people killed by police.
The documentary sees Brown painting portraits of the loved ones for each family to take home.
“[They had] a night where they got to celebrate, instead of crying or defending their name to the media and to the public,” he said.
Woods-Spikes shot the film over the course of last summer, but only just recently finished the piece. Following the death of Casey Goodson Jr., he felt it was imperative to show what was happening in response.
“I said to myself, ‘I’m not done with this documentary,'” he said. “This is literally the whole point that it’s being made.”
“If I can’t finish the documentary, that means that people can’t finish the fight, because it happens that frequently,” he continued.
Woods-Spikes says the title As a Matter of Black in part addresses an unfortunate pattern witnessed by Black people, in that no matter how often people try and delay unrest over police shootings, he says, it’s still a “matter of Black.”
“There’s some people like, ‘Well, let’s get the facts. Let’s make sure we know everything that happened. We don’t know what took place,'” he said. “Well, how many times have we been in the same situation? We all know exactly what took place. And it always involves a Black person.”
Film Columbus, in a partnership with Wexner Center for the Arts and the Greater Columbus Arts Council, will premiere As a Matter of Black among three local short films from recipients of the Art Unites Cbus Film Awards. Woods-Spikes was one of three filmmakers who received cash awards to fund the creation of a short film in response to last summer’s protests.
Technically, it’s not a Sundance film. But Woods-Spikes is elated all the same, adding that he hopes not just people in Columbus but people in other states and countries are able to see it as well.
“Even though it’s not an official selection, my film is being shown at Sundance. So that’s a win for me,” he said. “It’s still an opportunity to showcase what I’m capable of, and I’m hoping that…it gives them some type of inspiration or understanding of what’s taking place in Columbus, Ohio.”
He says, given his position in the community as a mentor and artist, he had to make this film and address this conversation, so that future generations don’t have to constantly worry about this same situation.
“I want everyone to see what is going on right now. I want it to be documented. I want us to be able to revisit it and make sure that we don’t make the same exact mistakes as time goes on,” he said. “As a person that is a documentarian, I don’t have a choice but to address and talk about the things that are difficult. I don’t have a choice.”
For more information on Donte Woods-Spikes, visit dontewoods-spikes.com.