Slamdance 2022: Paris is in Harlem

Directed by: Christina Kallas
Distributed by: TBA

Written by Alexander Reams

63/100

Jazz and dancing have been entangled with one another since their inception. Harlem itself is entwined within both of their histories. Until the “New York City Cabaret Law” passed in 1926 during the Harlem Renaissance. Despite clubs being open for business and people dancing anyway, the law wasn’t repealed until October of 2017. Christina Kallas’ latest feature condemns this law but also shows the beauty of Harlem. Set on the night that the law is repealed, “Paris is in Harlem”, follows an eccentric cast of characters and how they react to the law being repealed. All converging on a jazz club in Harlem where inevitably, violence occurs. We hear this violence in the beginning, which is praise on the sound department, wonderfully mixing the many distinct sounds of Harlem.

At first, when I read the title “Paris is in Harlem”, I failed to comprehend what it meant until the opening scene. When 2 men walk out of a bar, presumably in Harlem, and they are having a philosophical conversation. One that is clearly influenced by drugs, still an interesting if forgettable conversation. This aura of “forgettability” plagues Kallas’ latest. Until the ending, Kallas finally finds her footing in the film’s last scene. Full of remorse and emotion, it finally conveys what the film has been wanting to say for it’s entire runtime. The way the lighting hits each character as the film closes leaves a striking image to remember an otherwise forgettable film by. It was too little to late. Much like the ending, what’s done is done and we can’t change the past, change the violence that occured, change the 90 years that this dancing ban law was enforced on the people of New York City.

“Paris is in Harlem” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the Slamdance Film Festival.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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