The final week of ‘Long time we’ve been working’ sees the continuation of Chapter Three and includes a special set of lunchtime screenings of Rene Matić’s film, Many Rivers (2022).
This film tells the story of Matić’s father Paul and the ambiguity of his past. Paul’s father Julien emigrated to the UK from St Lucia in the Caribbean in 1958. Paul’s mother, a white Irish woman called Patricia, gave birth to Paul in 1962 at age nineteen. Patricia was a Catholic and giving birth to a Black baby ‘outside of wedlock’ would have carried shame and stigma within the Catholic church. Intimidated and overwhelmed, Patricia ultimately returned to Ireland leaving Paul with Julien and Julien’s new partner Nancy.
This story is told from four perspectives. That of Paul; Matić’s mother Ali; their grandfather Julien; and their aunty Lulu.
“Paul doesn’t know when he was moved to Peterborough. He doesn’t know when Julien was there and when he wasn’t. He doesn’t know who’s related to him. He doesn’t know about his Blackness, and he doesn’t know about his whiteness.”
Through this film’s four-way dialogue the gaps in Paul’s story are partially filled.This is also a story about the experience of existing as a mixed-race person during this period. It was time when laws protecting Black people in Britain from racial discrimination were being debated in parliament. Matić notes: “Paul was seven when Enoch Powell made his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech where he posed the threat that ‘in fifteen or twenty years, the Black hand will have the whip hand over the white man.’
The crux of these stories, and the thread that runs through this film is of working-class, diasporic survival; in some cases, solidarity and in most cases triumph.”
Originally commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella for BEYOND.
“Multiple streams of blood and DNA converge in any family history. But there are often others that remain largely hidden or submerged. Rene Matić’s video Many Rivers is an intimate, moving portrait of the artist’s father, Paul, and the struggles he has faced, that opens out into a stark and sobering exposure of the divisive, destructive strictures of race and class in post-war Britain. When Rene was growing up, Paul was a figure of anecdote and passing recollection, whose chequered past (bad boy, Rude boy, soul boy), uncertain present and unpredictable, health-blighted future bring mixed reactions from those who are close to him – Rene’s mother, Paul’s doting sister, and the other siblings with whom he shared a home on a Peterborough housing estate. Paul has long been a captivating riddle to his daughter and is evidently still something of a mystery to himself – although his emotions and compulsions start to become clearer the more that he shares and confides, most notably in his encounter with his own similarly absent father. In his mercurial, occasionally wayward life, Paul has been and done many things (some of which he is proud of, some of which he might want to forget), but he is, most of all, a survivor – a fact that this compelling, heartfelt film deftly and vividly celebrates.” – Film and Video Umbrella
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Courtesy of the Artist and Arcadia Missa, London
Many Rivers, 2022
HD video with sound
Rene Matić (b. 1997, Peterborough, UK) is a London-based artist and writer whose practice spans across photography, film, and sculpture, converging in a meeting place they describe as “rude(ness)” – an evidencing and honouring of the in-between. Matić draws inspiration from dance and music movements such as Northern soul, Ska, and 2-Tone as a tool to delve into the complex relationship between West Indian and white working-class culture in Britain, whilst privileging queer/ing intimacies, partnerships and pleasure as modes of survival.