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Remember, Broken Crayons Colour Too

Deeply poetic Swiss documentary about Jamaican trans woman excels in inventiveness - from the Pardi di Doman section of the 76th Locarno Film Festival


With a duration of just 13 minutes, this partly freeform documentary follows some of the most traumatic moments of Shannet Clemmings’s life prior to her departure from Kingston, the capital of ultra-homophobic Jamaica (a country where LGBT+ murders are widespread, enthusiastically supported by the vast majority of the population). Shannet, who also co-directs the film, narrates the oppression that she experienced for decades while she was still known as Shawn. This includes a vividly violent and jarring episode, portrayed with a lyrical touch of hope and tenderness. Her life changed when her asylum claim was eventually accepted and she moved to Europe.

The dark imagery of Zurich at night is combined with Shannet’s laboured, dour voice, supported by a violin-intense music score in order to create an exquisite message of survival at the face of the most horrific adversities. Despite the gloomy aesthetics, it is resilience and determination that ultimately prevail. Shannet may have been broken, but her ability to pull herself together and rise from ashes remains intact. Her black skin exudes beauty, strength, colour and glow. And she is not alone. It is often through solidarity that people in one of the most vulnerable communities on Earth manage to pull it through.

This is no ordinary documentary. The cinematography is symbolically (instead of topically) connected to the voice-over, in a movie that successfully avoids tiresome descriptiveness and didacticism, while also telling a coherent story. I would hazard a guess (and I certainly hope) that both directors have a luminescent future ahead.

Remember, Broken Crayons Colour Too premiered on August 10th at the Pardi di Domani section of the 76th Locarno Film Festival.

This piece was published in partnership with Unbiquarian.

By Victor Fraga - 10-08-2023

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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