A dreamlike narrative binds cowboy and an angelic specter clad in white in director Kahlil Joseph’s exploration of a little-known African-American rodeo subculture. Joseph, who is part of the Los Angeles-based What Matters Most film collective, visited the annual August rodeo in the sparsely populated Oklahoma town of Grayson (previously Wildcat), an event that attracts African-American bull riders, barrel racers and cowgirls from all over the Midwest and southern USA. He set out to celebrate the origins of the rodeo by paying respect to the spirit of Aunt Janet, a member of the family who founded the event, passed away last year and is embodied as the young girl in the film.
“Black people are light years more advanced than the ideas and images that circulate would have you believe. The spaces we control and exist are my ground zero for filming, at least so far, and there are opportunities for me to tap into the energy,” says Joseph who has also made films for musicians including Shabazz Palaces and Seu Jorge. “So an all-black town with an all-black rodeo in the American heartland was a kind of vortex or portal through which I could actually show this.” Wildcat is scored by experimental musician Flying Lotus, who has previously collaborated with Joseph on a short to accompany his 2012 album Until the Quiet Comes.