A little over a year ago, I stumbled upon ‘Monochrome’, a short film that portrays black male intimacy. I remember being so moved by the delicacy of the shots and by the tenderness displayed in the scenes. Many parts of the film will remind you of the most touching scenes of Moonlight or the notorious Vanity Fair shot of Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler.
The creator of the short, Seye Isikalu told The FADER over email that much of the short — which is part of a larger work about black male identity — ‘stems from seeing how intimacy between black men is policed, especially online. The Vanity Fair image of Michael B. Jordan placing his hand on Ryan Coogler’s head sparked a lot of unwarranted outrage, but also much needed discussion about perceptions of romantic and platonic black male intimacy and its surveillance.’”
While being a straight white male, I can relate to Isikalu’s insight. The self policing that pressures guys to conform in a rigid set of expectations and behaviors of what is “manly behavior” exists across cultures: it is called the Man Box, and this Man Box fuels the toxic CULTURE of masculinity.
“Extend an ‘I love you bro’, minus the ‘no homo’.”
In a beautiful piece entitled, How a Lack of Touch is Destroying Men, Mark Greene develops the idea that “In American culture, we believe that men can never be entirely trusted in the realm of the physical. We collectively suspect that, given the opportunity, men will revert to the sexual at a moment’s notice. That men don’t know how to physically connect otherwise. That men can’t control themselves. That men are dogs. There is no corresponding narrative about women.”
How can we reasonably argue with that reality? It is sad yes, but it does not make it less true. In our journey through manhood, many of us got weirded out when a male counterpart hugged us “a little too long“. Yet, very few of us get introspective about this initial reaction. Is it unconscious homophobia? Is it emotional shyness? The question deserves to be raised.
“We crave touch. We are cut off from it.” Mark Greene
According to Greene, this leaves men “physically and emotionally isolated. Cut off from the deeply human physical contact that is proven to reduce stress, encourage self esteem and create community. Instead, we walk in the vast crowds of our cities alone in a desert of disconnection. Starving for physical connection. We crave touch. We are cut off from it. The result is touch isolation.”
On that context, Seye Isikalu‘s short on black male intimacy is a breath of fresh hair. A beautiful testimony of authentic male relationships and a great inspirational tool to promote healthy masculinity. I hope you enjoy Monochrome as much as I did.
Make sure to support Seye Isikalu Go Fund Me page.
Seye Isikalu, is a London based Photographer & Film-maker currently raising money to fund his project SKINNY JEANS. Monochrome is a scene from SKINNY JEANS; a film that through narrative, interviews & poetry, explores & celebrates the black male experience across the spectrum of black masculinity & the beauty in its freeness. According to Isikalu, “the film will follow the ways in which black men engage each other/how the world engages us, and how this affects us as a community. SKINNY JEANS is my attempt at creating something I feel that I needed to see as a young black man transitioning into adolescence.”