A 2021 Film Journey: Day 54

Today was another rough one at work, but on the bright side the major project I’ve been breaking my back to get done has been kicked off and I should be done with long days for a bit at least. So while today is going to be another short entry about a single film, I have hope that soon I’ll be back into a more consistent multiple film watching routine.

Ganja & Hess (1973, Dir. Bill Gunn)

What's on TV Sunday: 'Ganja & Hess' and 'Outcry' - The New York Times

The 70s have proven to be a surprisingly fruitful decade for films by Black directors. Granted, most of them were created outside of the studio system, but it’s still been a fun batch to visit even if the money hasn’t always been there. Watching tonight’s film, Ganja & Hess, I can feel the budget constraints, but the film makes up for that by leaning into a more experimental tone to a vampire horror film.

What stood out the most about the film is much of the imagery. The film makes liberal usage of Christian iconography to play on the traditional motif of vampires being averse to a cross. While the vampires in Ganja & Hess don’t burn at the site of these religious objects, the film also uses the imagery of a noose in multiple locations as a more relevant symbol of pain for the Black characters. Gunn relies heavily on vampirism as a metaphor for Blackness. It represents something about Ganja (Marlene Clark) and Hess (Duane Jones) that they can’t control or escape, and others judge them for.

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