If you’ve already binged your way through the entirety of Micaela Coel’s I May Destroy You and are desperately craving something new to glue your eyes to, might I suggest Tourmaline’s Salacia?
The short film, executive produced by noted hot man Keanu Reeves, is a reimagining of the life of Mary Jones, a Black trans sex worker born in New York City in 1803 who was arrested and jailed after stealing a man’s wallet. Although the actual woman herself lived in the part of Manhattan now known as Soho, the filmmaker places her version of Jones in Seneca Village, a 19th Century settlement of free Black landowners whose land was seized by the city under eminent domain in order to build Central Park.
Salacia begins with flashes of Jones’ idyllic life in community, which is then ripped away from her as she is criminalized and imprisoned. Asleep in her cell, she has visions of Sylvia Rivera on the Christopher Street Piers in the 1990s, represented using archival footage of the STAR revolutionary. “You gotta keep fighting, girly,” Rivera tells her. The final shot finds Jones staring straight to camera, repeating the abolitionist affirmation: “We can be anything we want to be.”
Though it premiered last summer, Salacia has not been made widely available for viewing until this week thanks to its acquisition by the Museum of Modern Art, which has decided to upload the film to its YouTube channel until July 6.
“Salacia is a culmination of many, many people’s freedom dreams,” says Tourmaline in her introduction to the work. “It’s a film about the history of New York, about the colonization, about the dispossession, about the power of the freedom dream, and it culminates in this moment of Mary Jones moving towards feeling her power—the power of the future, the power of the present, and the power of the past.”
Watch Salacia below. And if you want to see more of Tourmaline’s work (you want to see more of Tourmaline’s work), check out Happy Birthday, Marsha!, The Personal Things, and Atlantic Is a Sea of Bones.