Not Too Deep, Not Too Shallow: ‘Wade In The Water’ Review

Wade In The Water is a fiery spoken-word poetry visual set to the invocation of the African-American slave spiritual of the same name. Released on YouTube in October, Wade is a well-done visual with high production value and a world primed for its message. Wade In The Water is the second short film of its kind from David Bianchi on the Million Youth Media platform, one of the branches of Fully Focused UK, a youth-led media group based in the United Kingdom.

Joivan Wade, David Bianchi, & Llewellyn C. Radford; Image courtesy of Wall of Productions

At the core of the piece are three spoken-word poetry performances centered around the Black experience in the United States. In particular, the pieces are about police murder and racist aggressions imposed by a white supremist status quo. The poems are all written in collaboration among the trio of David Bianchi, Llewellyn C. Radford, and Joivan Wade.

US actor David Bianchi already had a name for himself as a poet before he racked up a long list of acting, writing, and producing credits. With Wade In The Water, he adds director to his CV. The feel of the film is immediate and urgent, with a very industrial aesthetic and juxtapositions of slave-era versions of the performers. What ties the piece to the titular spiritual is the resonant timbre of Onyi Love’s voice, the binding that tethers the poems to the Black experience and the only femme presence in the film. There is the standard ‘terrible beauty’ of Blackness on display, but what makes this hit is the timing. With the release of Small Axe on Amazon Prime and this UK studio collaboration, there seems to be a bourgeoning connected consciousness with Black and Brown folks across the pond.

Onyi Love; Image courtesy of Wall of Productions

While none of the poems are groundbreaking in any way, they invite a conversation that has been bubbling since the worldwide protests this summer in the wake of Tony McCade, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd’s murders. Something we saw in the UK when John Boyega took loudly to the streets in defense of Black life. The Black experience is just as volatile across the ocean. Joivan Wade, known in the States for his turn as Cyborg on DC’s Doom Patrol, enters the chat in a big way. To be honest, I had no clue Joivan was British, but this was a cool way to find out. Wade remarked about what it means to be a Black Brit living in the US:

As a Brit living in the US, it’s been eye opening to not only see but feel the weight of the racial unrest here. Accompanying my American counterparts on the front line of protests in support of justice for George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, took me back to the London Riots of 2011 which were sparked by Mark Duggan and fueled by racial tension.  It’s devastating that black people still experience these same issues, and injustices to this day.”

Suffice to say, he has lowkey bars on this one and his performance is the most electric of the three.

David Bianchi & Onyi Love; Image courtesy of Wall of Productions

Wade In The Water is a timely and haunting piece that cuts to the quick. That said, it remains a film stuck in time. So much poignant art has sprung up in defense of Black life that Wade is best suited as a primer on the subject matter. As an education tool, Wade In The Water is an amazing tool for walking folks into a heavy conversation around Blackness under pressure.

Check it out here on Million Youth Media’s YouTube page and pass it on to whomever needs to have this conversation.

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  • Poet, MC, Nerd, All-Around Problem. Lover of words, verse, and geek media from The Bronx, NYC.

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