Photo (c) Ellen M. Blalock, used with permission.
In the last moments of one of the most powerful sequences of Ellen Blalock's new film, "Beyond Boundaries in Ghana," two small children play on the massive white-washed ramparts of the Cape Coast slave castle in Ghana, West Africa, even dancing a bit to some music in the air, it seems, though that music has been on the soundtrack, cutting back and forth with the sound of the immensely deep ocean waves washing unceasingly over the rocks below. What has been a fairly straight-forward documentary until this sequence -- the chronicle of the 2006 visit to northern Ghana by the Syracuse-based organization for cultural exchange, Beyond Boundaries, whose group stops in Cape Coast on their way back to the States -- catches you unawares in something less contained, soaring well beyond the journalistic. Overlaid images that suggest recollection, dream and the presence of ghosts, dark passageways into dungeons, the reactions of these travelers once they step foot onto this actual site of the Atlantic slave trade, and glimpses of the churning, unchained ocean visible just past the gunner's slits in the castle wall -- all these combine in an intense metaphor of revelation over what this trip means and what endures long past the castle's eventual crumbling.
After the premiere screening finished last Sunday afternoon at ArtRage Gallery, the photographer Marjory Wilkins, who had raptly occupied a front row seat, declared, "This needs to be shown in the schools! Children need to see where they come from and that they come from something!"
Blalock is a multimedia artist and this is her first feature-length film. Besides her professional photojournalism and short profile videography for the "Post-Standard," she is a painter, portraitist and quilt-maker of note who has exhibited in galleries and been a university-level teaching artist in residence a number of times. Coming in at just over 41 minutes, "Beyond Boundaries in Ghana" is a confident and winning work. Blalock edits with grace and precision, catches exactly the telling comment and moment, and shuttles with ease between narrative and metaphor.