Khalik Allah returned to the streets of Harlem where he filmed a part of his 2015 film, Field Niggas. He went back to his city for a new, genre-bending work, a visual-sonic portrait of the lives and thoughts of street-wise outsiders.
Following up from his 2018 feature Black Mother, which he filmed in Jamaica, Allah started filming his friends on 125th Street and Lexington Avenue in East Harlem in 2019. We hear conversations including with members of rap groups Sunz of Man and Wu-Tang Clan, his former girlfriend Camilla, his friends Frenchie, Gabriel and Roger of K.O. Hair Design and his mother. They talk about relationships, separation, civil rights and survival. Despite the euphoric conversations, at times the portraits seem so intimate and familiar. To Allah’s advantage, this is a wonderful result of his connection to his subjects that gave him deep access to their inner worlds. This also earned him the most beautiful smiles on camera, smiles I’ve never seen on screen before.
IWOW: I Walk on Water is an ethnographic work in its best moment. Allah has succeeded in creating a visual essay that’s both an exemplary study of people and a much-awaited modern portrait of the big city that hasn’t been represented in such tremendous detail since Gordon Parks’ photographs in the 1940s. His latest documentary project has a rhythm of a long-needed mixtape. Harlem at its best.
IWOW: I Walk On Water is released on demand from Friday 26th February.