With his new series The Underground Railroad set to premiere on Amazon Prime Video this Friday (May 14th), filmmaker Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) has released a 52-minute, non-narrative short that was made in parallel with the new series. Jenkins released a statement along with the short that explains the project, officially titled The Gaze, the short is not meant to be viewed as an episode of the series but as a related project inspired by it. The short comes via Indiewire along with an excerpt of his full statement in regards to the short:
“In my years of doing interviews and roundtables and Q&A’s for the various films we’ve made, there is one question that recurs. No matter the length of the piece or the tone of the room, eventually, inevitably, I am asked about the white gaze. It wasn’t until a very particular interview regards The Underground Railroad that the blindspot inherent in that questioning became clear to me: never, in all my years of working or questioning, had I been set upon about the Black gaze; or the gaze distilled.
I don’t remember when we began making the piece you see here. Which is not and should not be considered an episode of ‘The Underground Railroad.’ It exists apart from that, outside it. Early in production, there was a moment where I looked across the set and what I saw settled me: our background actors, in working with folks like Ms. Wendy and Mr. and Mrs. King – styled and dressed and made up by Caroline, by Lawrence and Donnie – I looked across the set and realized I was looking at my ancestors, a group of people whose images have been largely lost to the historical record. Without thinking, we paused production on the The Underground Railroad and instead harnessed our tools to capture portraits of… them.”
In addition to being inspired by his own work on The Underground Railroad, Jenkins also acredits celebrated painter Kerry James Marshall, in particular his portrait of African American artist Scipio Moorhead, as a deep influence on the short. The short also is accompanied by an originals score created by Nicholas Brittell. Brittell composed both of Jenkins’ feature films Moonlight (2016) and If Beale Street Could Talk (2018).
Without further ado, check out the full short below: