T seen through the eyes of Sarah Schlüssel, member of the preselection team of Berlinale Shorts:
“Welcome to African America,” he shouts and laughs. And here we are, in the Florida heat, meeting people who have lost loved ones. Dimples, a grande dame bursting with creativity and style, has lost her son. Preparing for the annual T Ball, she sews a glamorous outfit made partly from the silver foil of empty crisp bags – because her equally artistic son loved crisps so much. Sometimes, such a gesture is all that counts; goose bumps. “When you do things with your hands, it heals you in places lower than where you cry from,” she says.
We get to know Dimples, Ash and others, if only briefly. We see glimpses of their lives, some shorter, some longer, all masterfully edited into a kaleidoscope of voices and expressions. I cannot take my eyes off them. A glowing costume reminiscent of futuristic robots and transformers. A young woman wearing someone’s portrait on her long fingernails. Elaborate RIP T-shirts with faces and names on them, like the ones familiar from deceased hip-hop artists. Shrines that honour the dead, that you can take with you wherever you go. A second skin, a colourful, powerful celebration of the lost. “You create or you die,” that’s it.
Mourners in costumes, religious symbols, veins and arteries – all together making up a political and social map of contemporary America. In the light of everyday racism, police brutality and right-wing populism, T touches on a multitude of issues with extraordinary visual and emotional power. The film is a perfectly paced, intense and intimate journey into grief and ways of coping with loss.
“I know he’s not here, I’m not crazy,” Dimples says. But how can you fill up the hole in your heart? The truth is, the hole can never be filled – and she knows it. What remains is a deep pain that is always there, and the loving memory of those who have been lost. At the end, it is just that: colours, stars, the sky, a black hole. In the end, we are all dancers in the dark.
Sarah Schlüssel is a culture manager with a focus on film and festivals. She is a member of the Berlinale Shorts selection committee, coordinates the Short Form Station of Berlinale Talents, and co-founded shorts/salon.