On Sunday evening in the Big Ragtag theater, an intimate crowd of 20 people gathered to watch a three-hour portrait of Harlem, New York. I was unsure if any of us knew the interesting and somewhat emotionally provocative journey we would take on the festival’s closing day.
The director of IWOW: I Walk On Water, Khalik Allah, had a booming and electrifying personality that welcomed all the viewers to experience his reality. "In many ways, this is like an autobiography," Allah told the audience before the film began. "It’s a long movie. If you need to take a break, I won’t get mad."
Maintaining a constant presence and voice throughout the entirety of the film, Allah overlaps recorded conversations between neighborhood friends, mentors and loved ones with stunning shots of nature. He adds in visual portraits of those often overlooked by society as well: People experiencing homelessness, addiction, poverty and mental illness.
The most refreshing component of this film is the director’s honesty. Allah shows moments of vulnerability between him and his girlfriend as their relationship takes an unexpected turn for the worse. He also struggles to align his ideas with conventional ideas of spirituality, and he displays the systematic injustices that plague those in his community on screen. In a way, the film becomes a visual diary. Allah experiences extreme ups and downs while incorporating very sobering moments of self-reflection.
Although the film doesn’t present a straightforward or traditional narrative structure, viewers will undoubtedly find elements to connect with. Overall, the best advice to experience this film is to go in with an open mind and the will to challenge your perspective of normalcy.