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Black Nation
Mats Hjelm

The stark reality and contrast of these headlines point out the dichotomy of America Today . A black man has attained the highest office in the world, while according to the New York Times, black men are “sleeping through the holocaust”. One only has to look to the City of Detroit, once a model of upward mobility for blacks in America. Jobs having long migrated overseas, it now sits as a mere shell of its former self – vultures literally picking at the bones of its once great buildings – stripping them of everything from wire to copper pipes. How is it even possible for the African American men of this once proud City to conceive of a way out of the double jeopardy of crime and unemployment – let alone take positive steps toward the future?

Black Nation is a documentary feature film that takes a hard, uncompromising look at the state of Black men in America today through the prism of the streets of Detroit and the City’s controversial Shrine of the Black Madonna. The Church’s focus on delivering pragmatic programs centered around economic self sufficiency, is a model for Black America today, as it searches for solutions to seemingly impossible problems. Set within the framework of a Father’s day service, the film tracks the despair of its congregation while at the same time showing the way forward with great hope and dignity. They are leading by example.

Swedish director and internationally renowned video artist, Mats Hjelm, has a deep personal connection to the City and the Church. This connection began with his filmmaker father’s documentation of the 1967 Detroit uprising, the Church’s part in this seminal event and the filming of Stokely Carmichael’s (Black Panther Party) 1968 fundraising tour of Europe. Segments of this historic footage are included in the film. His connection was further deepened through his formal education at Michigan’s prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art. Wonderfully shot in HD, the result is a beautiful film unlike any other that will deeply affect your view of America today.

Aspect ratio 2.39:1
Prod. format Generic HD-video
Duration 01:30:00
Language English
Color Color
Sound Dolby Surround 5.1
Year 2008
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About the artist

Mats Hjelm

Mats Hjelm born in 1959, is an artist, documentary filmmaker and creator of multimedia installations who currently lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden. His work investigates the boundaries between art and movements of social justice, video installation and documentary practices, and personal and global political narratives. He has worked extensively in Europe, West Africa and the United States, and more recently in Brazil.

In a number of large-scale video installations, such as Black Like Him (2008), Father’s Day at the Shrine of the Black Madonna (2006), and the Trilogy (White Flight /Man to Man/Kap Atlantis, 1997-2003), the history of the Civil Rights movement is in focus. Poetic images interwoven with documentary footage tell stories of oppression, pride and the complexity of integration. Hjelm’s work also encompasses more down-to-earth video works such as After Hours (2010), where performers in business suits are enagged in a dance of power and submission with the office space as a backdrop. Hjelm’s latest installations Taste of Salt (2013) and Who the Fool (2015) include a poetic layering of political and existential narratives with his documentary work in West Africa and a reflection on Atlantic history and movements of social justice.

Hjelm’s work has been shown in numerous solo- and group exhibitions, including Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Museum of African American History, Detroit, Biennale Africaine de la Photographie, Bamako, Dubai International Film Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Venice Biennale, among others.

Mats Hjelm holds an MFA in Sculpture from Konstfack University College of Art, Crafts and Design in Stockholm, and he has also studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in the US under the guidance of Michael Hall. He has further education in philosophy from Stockholm University and in Design leadership from the University of Industrial Arts, Helsinki. Hjelm is represented in several private and public collections including Moderna Museet, Malmö Art Museum, Uppsala Art Museum and The National Public Arts Council Sweden. He is currently represented by Cecilia Hillström gallery in Stockholm, Sweden.

Hjelm’s extended art practice includes teaching in specialized courses within contemporary art. He is also an expert cinematographer, film colorist, programmer and video installation specialist, currently active as a consultant in these fields.