Isaac Julien’s gorgeous short film, “The Attendant” (1992) focuses on the gay sado-masochistic fantasies of a black museum guard. Inspired by the 19th century French painting, entitled “Slaves on the West Coast of Africa”, the film confronts white colonial representations of slavery with black gay sado-masochistic desire. Julien’s fanciful reenactments of paintings as s/m fantasies challenges rigid conceptions of black/white relations. As he explains, “the popular ‘black, straight’ reading that tries to use the signs of s/m (whips and chains) for a neocolonial racist/sexual practice is an attempt to fix these images in time, perpetuating white power and domination. It is thus reductive, a misreading of the theatre of s/m, based on the politically correct notions of sexual practices from a world devoid of fantasy.” Julien’s multi-faceted vision of interracial desire is lent a touch of humor through cameos by theorist Stuart Hall, writer Hanif Kureishi, and pop singer Jimmy Sommerville.
Isaac Julien (GB), The Attendant, 1992, 8Min.