Wednesday, October 29

The Glow of White Women Yunus Valley

With The Glow of White Women Yunus Valley forcefully and riotously reverses the colonial gaze to comedically consider the erotic imagery and actual white women who have comprised his masturbatory fantasies and his libidinous relationships. Valley, a mixed race Indian/Black artist from South Africa, is an incendiary, unabashed director-subject who races through a confrontation of the sexual racism that made for tense relations and torrid desire during apartheid. With a devious grin and a subversive sense of humor encapsulated in his assertion that apartheid really wasn’t so oppressive because it meant that the black boys could sit at the back of the movie houses and masturbate to the images of white women on the screen, he plays at untangling his voracious appetite and contempt for Caucasian women- as a personal and a cultural phenomenon. Don’t expect conclusions or for every element of this film to be well-realized or logically arranged, but do expect an unusually entertaining social critique. This film exudes the personality of its maker, which is to say it is hyper and playful, with a tinge of artist arrogance. Just as he is perfectly comfortable espousing that women are frivolous and not worth living with/committing to, he seems self-satisfied in the structuring of the film, feeling no need to contextualize or conclude as convention would dictate. And why not, if at the end one has the sense that he is a competent commentator, agitator, and entertainer? In two regards he brings to mind Michael Moore. He is a strong, confrontational personality that will likely earn avid detractors and avid supporters among his audience, and he conjures Roger and Me with his laughable but rather pointless ambush of a beauty queen. On the flipside, it is a beauty queen (the Miss South Africa pageant is a recurring subject) who provides the most chilling moment of the film, as well. When interviewed about her family’s relationship to the African workers who constitute the labor force of the family business, Miss South Africa is a shocking embodiment of the sort of paternalistic racism that is utterly ignorant of itself.

Fortunately, other women articulate different shades of interracial relations. He gets some refreshingly candid interviews from white women who were young during apartheid and speak about their racial fetishes and their gleefully defiant miscegenation. As the filmmaker comments, colonial women often had rather repressed sexual relationships with their white husbands; when they connected with Africans they felt free to unbridle their primal libido. Likewise, this topic could be handled in a staid, politically sensitive manner, but the hard-hitting humor and honesty that this anti-racist rascal offers is a viable and delightful alternative.

-Kevin Langson