El Color Negro Film Asks: What Does Black Mean, Exactly?

Last summer, local filmmaker Andy Hodgson felt weighted down—by recent police brutality, in particular the murder of George Floyd, but also by the constant media surrounding it. “Being half Black and half Spanish myself, I was really affected by it,” he says. As a filmmaker, Hodgson is all about simplicity, and found himself thinking about the bare basics of complex issues. “I woke up one morning, bombarded by the news and social media, and I said to myself, ‘What is the colour black?’” 

As he researched black as a colour, he started to put together a script. “I felt like I needed to do a script that was almost stand alone—like it could be spoken word,” he says. He thought of commercials and the average video you see online, a constant barrage of flashing pictures, and sought to do the opposite. “I wanted the audience to be more captivated by the narration than the images,” he says. 

For the visual component of the film, he focused on a time period he felt empowering for Black people: the 1920s. “Black people were becoming owners, having small businesses, there were Black poets… there was a renaissance happening in the Black community,” says the filmmaker. His goal was to combine big ideas in a tangible, elevated fashion. “I put together colour theory, philosophy, and imagery of Black people in the roaring 20s in a very elegant light—I wanted elegance.” 

The end result, El Color Negro, is a three-and-a-half minute thinker. It features 21 Black Vancouverites (you might recognize Nova Stevens from the Juneteenth march or as Miss Universe Canada). Hodgson says that he didn’t make the film intending audiences to feel any specific emotion—it’s purposely open-ended, but that does allow our minds to wander in surprising ways. So how does it make him feel?

 “I feel empowered—I feel hope, I feel grief, I feel…confused,” he laughs. “A bit of everything. Making the film gave me this new visualization that even my little self, in this humongous world, can somehow make people change their thoughts.” 

El Color Negro has been selected for screening at the Vancouver Short Film Festival later this month—you can see it on Friday, January 22 at 7:00 p.m.