On the Downlow

On the Downlow

USA, 2007, 54 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Bisexual, Black / African American, Documentary, Gay
Program: Documentary
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Abigail Child

Abigail Child is a preeminent experimental filmmaker, noted for her signature works in the found footage genre. In each of them, she creates an artfully designed, self-contained universe, replete with sexual tension and lurking danger, which lies on the border between fiction and reality.
In her documentary On the Downlow, Child and cinematographer Arthur Jafa (Crooklyn, Daughters of the Dust), investigate the lifestyles of four African American men living in Cleveland, Ohio and confronting the struggles of everyday existence and the process of coming out. Child uncovers their secrets as she explores the sexual, racial and familial dichotomies of their lives.
The cityscapes are filmed in surreptitious, staccato fashion, coupled with a roving but unobtrusive camera that penetrates the protagonists’ domestic spaces. Weaving these visuals together with startlingly frank on-camera narration by each protagonist, Child creates a compelling collective portrait of the physical, psychological and emotional travails of an underground lifestyle finally surfacing above ground. Each of the four men must come to terms (in distinctly individual fashion) with the reality of his intimate involvement with same-sex partners. As viewers, we are left knowing that their personal human struggles will continue in the real space and time that exists beyond the final frames.
On the Downlow will be preceded by Child’s 2004 short documentary The Party, also shot in Cleveland’s Black gay community. — TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL


Black Coalition On AIDS and Shanti L.I.F.E. Institute



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