Traveling While Black, or the green book that black America carries within
"Traveling While Black" is a 20-minute documentary that uses virtual reality to discuss the danger of simple travel for an African-American.
For thirty years Victor Hugo Green published the guide entitled "The Negro Motorist Green Book", also known simply as "The Green Book". The same guide that two years ago gave its name to the film starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen and would receive the Oscar for Best Picture.
This book collected restaurants, gas stations, hotels and private homes that welcomed African Americans seeking accommodation in transit from one place to another. In short, it was a survival guide.
Among this list of safe places was Ben's Chili Bowl: a Washington restaurant founded in 1958 that became a key institution in the city and remains so today. The restaurant was also part of the film with Mahershala Ali.
Traveling While Black is a documentary entirely narrated within the walls of the Ben's Chile Bowl. It takes a historical look at the difficulties and dangers African Americans faced and still face when doing something as simple as going from one place to another.
For 20 minutes we hear the voices of Sandra Buttler, Courtland Cox and Samaria Rice. Buttler recounts her childhood memories, when and how she understood the existence of discrimination. Cox - a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee - tells us about the experience of riding the bus when he was 14, the precautions he took every time, and the doubts and questions he always had. Samaria Rice, surrounded by a grieving community, testifies to the murder of her son, Tamir Rice, by a police officer, the irregularities and inconsiderate gestures made by the authorities after his death.
This documentary not only stands out for its relevance, but also for its remarkable visual execution.
Recorded entirely using a 360-degree camera, the documentary allows the viewer to take a complete tour of the Ben's Chili Bowl, while it is transformed into a cinema club - on whose roof archive images are projected -, returns to being a restaurant and the mirror becomes the glass of a bus that reflects the young Courtland Cox looking out the window and Rice is supported by the community, which accompanies her with pain and in silence.
The use of both the 360º image and the special effects executed with such delicacy allow a greater approach to the stories that the documentary presents us with and gives it a clear aesthetic value.
Traveling While Black was part of the We Are One Filmfestival: the response that 20 of the most important film festivals in the world -including Berlin, Cannes, Guadalajara, New York, Toronto and Venice- gave to the impossibility for film lovers to meet in theatres: to go digital.
For now, it is available for free and legal viewing on Youtube: