In a temple where safety is a mystery and breath dreams of telling stories of uprising, Red Line Lullaby moves across (sub)urban landscapes and reflects on loss, resilience, and the (im)possibility of belonging in America, a country in agony.
Yehuda Sharim is a poet and filmmaker. His films appeared in various film festivals, artistic venues, and universities worldwide. While excavating emotional and intimate histories of border crossing and the migration of souls, his work provides a comparative study of displacement, shedding light on the changing constructions of home and belonging. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Merced.
Red Line Lullaby (2020)
THE INTERNAL COMMUTE
Red line Lullaby, a poem-film, based on Lorena Alvarado’s poetic reflections during her journey into the heart of America. Time and space melt together as she meditates on the country through which she travels: Bulls become basketball mascots and young women wear electronic cuffs; people hunted like animals, souls haunted like ghosts…the hunted haunt everything touched. We, the viewers, melt and become one among them.
With superimposed images that evoke distinct landscapes, the trajectory is physical, as well as temporal, the train transports communal memories that get reflected back in the windowpane: exhaustion, alienation, longing. The train is destined to arrive somewhere, but it also inoculates us with stories past, present, and future: foreclosures, race riots, homelessness, hunger, and more.
AS THE EYES LEAVE
I am thinking about the day that our eyes will finally leave us and we will begin watching and listening to this world with our heart. I keep returning to Lorca. “I came into this world with eyes, and I’ll leave without them” [Federico García Lorca, “Lamentation of Death” in Poem of the Deep Song].
In thinking about cinema that is not made solely to be viewed with our eyes, I began experimenting with cinematography as a continuous engagement with life, a practice that remains alive and in motion, constantly in flux, creating space for unexpected but much needed encounters.
I am thinking about the director/cinematographer as an artist, a sculptor, writer, dancer, where the personal and the political, intimate space and public setting are constantly meshed, shaping and reshaping each other, and then melting into multiple layers of time and truth.
I am sure that we know how to watch. We follow lines but are afraid of circles.
I think about poetry as a direct and immediate way to listen and read life.
I think about events that appear random, but when placed side by side and brought in relation to one another, unexpected stories and mysterious colors emerge. It is the act of meaning making, composing, turning and returning to the canvas of life. And when you look into this canvas of life, what is the role of film amidst an unfolding catastrophe?
CINEMA AMIDST A CATASTROPHE
Filming amidst a catastrophe, an apocalyptic moment, where everything seems to fall apart, lose shape, melt, and the soul remains, floating amidst ruin, death, flashy news, momentary headlines, intensive zoom intervals, dying, we are dying, our streets are burning…do you feel it?
Someone within asks me to tell you, a whisper: there is no escape from this moment. Past illusions cannot sustain us. No more resort, no hotel, no shopping spree, no wonder woman/man premier, no coffee shops, no new shoes, no comic or grief relief, no pain or love killer, no travel, no gold/platinum/exclusive membership, no parents, no school, no government, no hospitals [the mayor already told you that all beds and emergency units have been reserved months in advance].
When the eagle is just about to catch and eat the fish, she asks me to stop the film. She doesn’t want to watch it anymore.
Red Line Lullaby narrates an American testimony, an American Lyric, an American Lullaby, searching for some beauty during these times of extreme callousness and vulgarity.
Karla Meeting Ana Meeting Micaela Meeting Sheila
I was filming Karla just before Trump was elected and she told me that she is about to get married. It was a Saturday afternoon in Houston. Someone volunteered to be her wife, so Karla could get papers. She got tired with being “the undocumented who pays taxes but being ignored, mistreated.” Karla’s parents didn’t attend the festive celebration. Her “family” were her fellow dreamers, who like her have work permit but no stability.
Ana immediately wanted to tell her story. I was new to Merced and Ice Out of Merced was just forming. I asked whether or not I could film them and their struggle. Ana was the first to tell everyone that “we need to tell our story; we must have courage to speak about experiences and struggles here in the Central Valley, in Merced.” A month later, we began meeting twice a month, to rehearse with life, with her thirty years of exile from her beloved Mexico, her inability to visit her parents and then their funeral, her son’s addictions, her husband’s alcohol binging nights, and her dream to remind people to be brave to live and dream of a better life.
Karla and Ana, like Sheila, Andrea, Micaela, and Lorena, appear in the film, part of this poem, this lullaby, a call for internal peace while sitting side by side with death in this country where safety is a mystery and RED dominates the history and present lives.