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By David Finkelstein | November 13, 2011

“Drexciya,” loosely inspired by the Detroit band of the same name, is a strange, powerful, and elegiac short by American-born, Ghanaian filmmaker Akosua Adoma Owusu. The long, slow beginning of the film shows an abandoned and decaying luxury swimming pool in Ghana. Broken tiles, decayed diving boards inhabited by birds, and even animal skulls are all seen in beautifully composed, lingering shots. People, apparently homeless, are seen at the periphery, washing their clothes and hanging them on the bushes which grow around the pool. We see a city in the background.

Very slowly, out of a swirl of haunting chords and ghostly splashing sounds, comes the sound of a field recording of the American spiritual “Wade in the Water.”  The song celebrates an unshakable faith, able to overcome the harshest adversity. Owusu has slowly built up an extremely powerful combination of elements, conflating the experiences of American slaves with post-colonial African struggles. Owusu has written that the African immigrant in America must have a “triple consciousness,” of her African heritage, of the white American culture in which she lives, and of the African-American culture which is the lens through which white Americans will view her. Amazingly, “Drexciya” is a sparse and simple film which manages to make this triple consciousness a palpable, tragic, yet hopeful experience for the viewer.

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