Mercy – Marilyn Freeman – USA

A road trip leads American filmmaker Marilyn Freeman to the origins of racism in this meditative video essay about facing the religious roots of white supremacy.

Marilyn Freeman is an interdisciplinary artist working at the intersections of reckoning and resiliency, queerness and film, and contemplative, creative and social practices. Their films have been featured on PBS and in galleries, theaters, festivals and spirituality centers worldwide including The Powerhouse Arena in New York City, the British Film Institute, Seattle International Film Festival, Montreal’s Festival of International Cinema, Cologne’s Feminale, Sydney’s Queer Screen, the Paris Lesbian Film Festival, L.A.’s Outfest, San Francisco’s Frameline, the Bologna Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, Barcelona’s Int’l Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Ladyfests from Olympia to London, Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum and Beijing Contemporary Art Center in China. Freeman’s text and media arts essays have been published in/at The Fourth Genre, Blackbird, Ninth Letter, TriQuarterly, Rolling Stone and Abbey of the Arts.

Freeman is author of The Illuminated Space: A Personal Theory and Contemplative Practice of Media Art (The 3rd Thing, 2020); creator of Cinema Divina–short evocative films made for contemplative social practice; co-founder of the media arts studio, Wovie; screenwriter/producer of Sophisticated about golden era film director, Dorothy Arzner; and recipient of The Evergreen State College Faculty Foundation Grant, The Arch & Bruce Brown Foundation Grant, Artist Trust Grants for Artist Projects and multiple Washington State Artist Trust Media Arts Fellowships. Freeman’s work most recently showed in London’s MicroActs Artist Film Screenings, in Los Angeles at the 2020 Film and Video Poetry Symposium and will screen at the International Video Poetry Festival in Athens during March, 2021. Visit

Director Statement

Regrettably, racism is in the moral DNA of white Americans.

The point of my journey was to drive from Olympia WA to Iowa for a retreat.

Then I saw a book. I saw it on the top shelf at Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City. A book I’d never heard of – by a writer I’d never heard of. The truth is I barely opened it on my retreat. But I bought an audio version that I listened to driving home. At a certain point, about 45 minutes into the book, I had to stop driving, I pulled off the road because I’d started to cry and I could not stop.

I just listened.

This is what I heard, about the history of Christianity –

About forty years before Columbus sails to this continent, Pope Nicholas V, in the 1450s, issues an official proclamation that empowers Europeans to plunder, enslave and slaughter – in the name of discovery. In the name of the Church.

A papal charter to:

Invade, search out, capture, vanquish and subdue all Muslims and pagans and other enemies of Christ wherever placed, and the kingdoms, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms…possessions, and goods and to convert them to his…use and profit.

The Catholic Church has yet to renounce the decree. It serves as the basis for the Doctrine of Discovery, a philosophical and legal foundation of America.

In this short film, Mercy, I begin to face the white supremacy rooted in my childhood faith — and by extension, rooted in me.

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