February 22, 2021

SCREEN | Black and White – A 'Test Pattern' of Sexual Violence

"I never want you to leave."
Brittany S. Hall Shatara Michelle Ford | Test Pattern
Kino Lorber
A fresh new filmmaking voice in newcomer Shatara Michelle Ford makes her quietly devastating debut. Her first film, Test Pattern, is a fiercely powerful relationship drama about the struggles of navigating sexual violence as a young Black woman in an interracial relationship. It expertly confronts all of our preconceptions about victimhood.

Actress Brittany S. Hall stars as Ranesha, an educated corporate turned non-profit worker, dealing with the aftermath of a hazy rape we only see around the edges of as she starts to question her live-in boyfriend's motives and actions trying to seek justice on her behalf. Ford, through Ranesha's lens, is constantly challenging our presumptions and conceptions of surviving sexual assault within complex contemporary identities and points of view. Hall's body-language movements are masterful in expressing her confused anguish.

Set in Austin, Texas, how the film juxtaposes the attractive everywoman lead character with her supportive, woke white male partner, Will Brill's gentle but gruff tattoo artist Evan, sets us up brilliantly for further relationship complications later in the film. Its riveting slow burn drama shows the subtle uneseen power imbalances in society so artfully. Its commentary and depiction of very real anxieties only heighten its effect on the screen.

Through its intersections of race, class, and gender, Ford's thrilling dissection of sexual victimhood within the health care system provides a sharp examination of Blackness and whiteness deftly. Test Pattern is both an emotional and harrowing journey of surviving the indignities of rape beyond the violent act of power. Ford's voice is one to watch out for sure.

Test Pattern screens virtually on Kino Marquee through The Cinematheque until March 4th.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Stir / THR

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