THE INJURED BODY (2021) is a documentary film written and directed by Mara Ahmed, a Pakistani American artist and filmmaker based in New York. It aims to unpack racism. It is also a response to a particular political moment – the emboldening of racial intolerance, xenophobia, bigotry and violence. It showcases the voices of a diverse group of women of color, involved in community work in Western New York.
The film’s title is inspired by Claudia Rankine’s book, ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ in which she asks:
How to care for the injured body,
the kind of body that can’t hold
the content it is living?
And where is the safest place when that place
must be someplace other than in the body?
The film examines racism though the lens of micro-aggressions – slights, slips of the tongue, or intentional offenses that accumulate over a lifetime and impede a person’s ability to function and thrive in the world.
Mara Ahmed explains the need to deconstruct micro-aggressions:
I chose to approach racism by focusing on micro-aggressions because of two reasons. Firstly, as Claudia Rankine explains, we seem to understand structural racism somewhat, but are baffled by racism coming from friends. It is disorienting because it is unmarked. ‘The Injured Body’ hopes to home in on the language needed to ‘mark the unmarked.’ Secondly, personal stories lend themselves to filmmaking because they can help create intimacy and trust, and lay the groundwork for a paradigm shift.
The documentary spotlights the voices of women of color not only because their stories are misrepresented/dismissed by mainstream media, but also because they operate at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression and can articulate the complexity of those experiences. Their testimony and analysis can help broaden traditional understandings of feminism as well as anti-racism work.
The women interviewed for the film also share their visions for a world without bigotry and violence. This is a crucial part of the film, as imagining a world without racism is an important step towards achieving it.
The documentary weaves together an alternative narrative strand told through dance and movement, mostly choreographed by Mariko Yamada. Since prejudice is largely a matter of reading bodies in particular ways and racism is received by and carried in the body, dance is the perfect medium to underline the personal stories shared in the film.
The Injured Body is fiscally sponsored by NYWIFT and slated to premiere in 2022.