Occidental alum debuts film about power, liberation and Black vulnerability at Outfest Fusion

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Courtesy of Tatiana Garnett

“These Hands Lay Open,” a short film by Occidental alum Tatiana Garnett ‘21, debuted April 9 at Outfest Fusion at Regal LA Live & 4DX Theater. Outfest Fusion is run by the long-standing film festival Outfest whose mission is to highlight filmmakers who are people of color within the LGBTQIA+ community and provide resources to the QTBIPOC community. Garnett said, “These Hands Lay Open,” her Media Arts & Culture (MAC) senior comprehensive project, is a meditation on the experiences of being a Black woman in an anti-Black world.

“These Hands Lay Open” utilizes a combination of archival footage, Garnett’s own filming, and poetry from various artists — which often appears as text on the screen. Ashten Reese (senior), who appears in the film, said he loves the way Garnett pulled from a variety of different sources.

Courtesy of Tatiana Garnett

“It is almost reminiscent of sampling in music,” Reese said. “And I feel like that has a really long history in Black culture.”

Garnett said Audre Lorde was particularly inspirational to her in making the film. A writer, essayist and poet, Lorde wrote about racial, gendered and homophobic injustice in the world. According to Garnett, Lorde’s writing is central to “These Hands Lay Open.”

“At the time [of developing the film], I was reading a piece by Audre Lorde. And she has this quote that says, ‘The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am. And the Black mothers in each of us, the poet, whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free,’” Garnett said. “That line alone is what really grounds and roots the piece.”

Courtesy of Tatiana Garnett

Garnett said making the film was a way to communicate this sentiment to herself.

“The idea of vulnerability being a pathway to liberation was a reminder to myself that I needed at the time in order to survive and move in the anti-Black world,” Garnett said.

Reese said he loves that “These Hands Lay Open” embodies a space that offers solace from systems of oppression.

“There’s this internal world, this internal peace, that’s unbothered and untouched by the chaos of our world, the drama of our world, the anti-Blackness of our world,” Reese said.

Anjolie Charlot, another member of the cast, said she feels grateful that “These Hands Lay Open” is out in the universe.

“It’s so important to have art in the world that affirms Black life and encourages Black people to authentically care for themselves,” Charlot said via email.

Making the film was a highly collaborative process, with lots of experimentation involved, Garnett said. Many of the soundbites and quotes come from impromptu conversations.

“Our scenes were not scripted, so we were able to listen to music and capture some really natural moments,” Charlot said via email.

Reese said Garnett would communicate her central vision, and from there they worked together to achieve it.

“It was a super chill process,” Reese said. “We were just kind of creating off of each other.”

Courtesy of Tatiana Garnett

When her film made it into Outfest Fusion, Garnett said she felt a little intimidated. However, she said she was able to reach out to past professors at Occidental for guidance.

“It felt really big. Thankfully, I have folks like Professor [Aleem] Hossain that I can hit up and be like, ‘Um, I’m not understanding what they’re asking for. Can you please help?’” Garnett said.

Garnett said seeing her film on the big screen was a magical moment.

“To be able to go to a movie theater with my family and my homies, all my loved ones, and see my own film on this huge screen in an actual movie theater was really beautiful,” Garnett said. “It gave me a sense of presence, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude.”

Charlot said seeing the film at Outfest Fusion was an important moment.

“To sit next to Tati [Garnett] and hold her hand while seeing her film on the big screen was the most amazing feeling,” Charlot said via email. “I know this was the first of many screenings as she continues to generously share her overflowing creative gifts.”

While “These Hands Lay Open” is not currently available to the public, Garnett said she is hopeful that there will be a release this fall, if not sooner.