The African Desperate with Martine Syms

9 November 2022 6pm

Event begins at 6:30PM EST

The Canadian premiere of Martine Syms’ film, The African Desperate (2022) is accompanied by a virtual Q&A with the director, moderated by programmer Nataleah Hunter-Young. 

Newly minted MFA Palace Bryant — effectively played by artist Diamond Stingily — has survived the white chaos of art school in Upstate New York and is determined to catch her train back to Chicago on time. She’s not going to the party her classmates keep asking about, she’s going home to pack, roll one, and bask in the glory of relief — the exhale that awaits the end of graduate school’s hyper-competitive and ineffably eurocentric creative-intellectual warfare. That is the plan, at least, but the next 24 hours send Palace on an unexpectedly beautiful, mundane, and messy trip, sparked by sparing a few extra moments for friends who made the Upstate struggle bearable — Hannah, Akin, and HotJake among them. Their ride isn’t quite over yet. 

Part high-pressure plummet, part carefree spiral, the sophomore feature from installation artist and filmmaker Martine Syms takes its inspiration from Syms’ own grad school experiences, placing the story in step with themes the artist continues to explore in her work, namely reverse migration, modes of surveillance, ways of looking, and everyday struggle and survival. Coming to TIFF Bell Lightbox for its Canadian premiere following successful screenings at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) and MoMA’s New Directors/New Films Festival in New York, The African Desperate sees Syms bend time with colour and an equally brilliant score to the all-consuming task of picking up and moving on. 

The African Desperate is presented in partnership with TIFF Cinematheque as part of the TIFF Wavelengths Presents series.

Nataleah Hunter-Young is a writer, film curator, and Pre-Doctoral Fellow in Black Studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She is an International Programmer at the Toronto International Film Festival, responsible for feature selections from Africa and Arab West Asia. Hunter-Young has supported Festival programming at TIFF since 2017, also programming for the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa. In 2021, she worked as consulting producer on the Criterion Collection’s 10th anniversary release of Dee Rees’s landmark film Pariah (2011). Having recently earned her PhD in Communication and Culture from York University and Toronto Metropolitan University, Hunter-Young will join the University of Western Ontario’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) in January 2023 as an Assistant Professor, teaching in their new Creative Arts and Production program.

Martine Syms is an artist who has earned wide recognition for a practice that combines conceptual grit, humour, and social commentary. Her work has been shown at museums and art institutions around the world, including solo exhibitions at Tate Liverpool (2021), the Art Institute of Chicago (2018), and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2017). She has participated in the Whitney Biennial (2019), Gwangju Biennale (2018), Manifesta (2016), and the New Museum Triennial (2015). Her artwork is in the public art collections of multiple museums including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundations, Whitney Museum of American Art, and more. She is a recipient of the Creative Capital Award (2021), a United States Artists fellowship (2020), the Future Fields Commission (2018), and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant (2017).


Image: Martine Syms, video still from The African Desperate, 2022. Courtesy Dominica Inc.