MOMA Streams Salacia by Tourmaline

Transgender Life in 1830 Seneca Village

By: - Jun 25, 2020

Written, Directed, Produced by Tourmaline
Produced by Hope Dector and Nina Macintosh
Executive Produced by Keanu ReevesStarring Rowin Amone with Christopher James Murray, Eva Reign, and Frank Woods
Director of Photography Kjerstin Rossi
Production Designer Josephine Shokrian
Editor Zoie Omega
Costume Designer Tess Herbert
Original Music by Geo Wyeth

Salacia is a short film, but it packs a punch. Exotic garb and dreamy locations do not hide the harsh truth of a black woman's life in the times of slavery.

Tourmaline, the gifted artist who made this film, knew when she discovered Mary Jones, a transgender sex worker in the early 19th century, that she must bring her to film. Jones' home in Soho is moved to Seneca Village, where blacks could own land, homes and vote in the early 19th century.

Tourmaline is an activist, filmmaker, and writer. Her work focuses on Black queer and trans people and communities who make and transform worlds. In her films, Tourmaline creates dreamlike portraits of people whose stories tell the history of New York City, including gay and trans liberation activists, drag queens, and queer icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (Happy Birthday Marsha, co-directed with Sasha Wortzel, 2018), Miss Major (The Personal Things, 2016), and Egypt LaBeija (Atlantic is a Sea of Bones, 2017). These films move seamlessly from narrative to non-narrative sequences.  They cast a light on the underbelly lives that color historical events.  

As brief as the film is, the haunting lines written by Tourmaline, the whirling costumes, and ominous white men in black suits and top hats mesmerize. Rowin Amone evokes Jones  as she moves from sex work to prison and finally to an emancipated view of life's possibilities.

Salacia was screened on High Line at 14th Street every night beginning at dusk in the late spring and early summer of 2019.  At the Brooklyn Museum, it was part of the exhibit Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall 

View here until July 6, 2020.  Commentary and background articles are also available.