The topic of migration is now more relevant than ever, also presented in the recent five exhibitions on this subject at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Together with the works by Esiri Erheriene-Essi these two exhibitions portray migration and its effects on culture in a beautiful manner.
Set in 1960s London and on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, Paradise Omeros is freely inspired by Derek Walcott's epic poem Omeros, which references the Greek poet Homer's The Odyssey. Walcott and musician and composer Paul Gladstone Reid collaborated with Julien on the text and the score for the film, respectively. Walcott, who is a Nobel Prize-winning Saint Lucian author, was commission by Julien to create a poem specifically for the film.
Paradise Omeros delves into the fantasies and feelings of "Creoleness" - the mixed language, the hybrid mental states and the territorial transpositions that arise as a result of the cultural difference characteristic of the West Indies, that emerged from its history of colonial rule.
By using the recurrent imagery of the sea, the film sweeps the viewer into a poetic meditation on the ebb and flow of selfhood and Otherness, love and hate, xenophobia and xenophilia.
The films' protagonist, Achilles (played by Hansel Jules), appears in both locations, first working as a waiter at a Saint Lucian beach resort and later wandering through bleak and grey London brutalist buildings. Dreamlike scenes of the ocean and a lively party in a West Indian London apartment speak to the beauty of his world; vignettes of a burning cabin and domestic brutality also imply that violence and anxiety lie just beneath the surface.
The poetic and emotional terrain of postcolonial identity is explored through a richly imagined, elliptical narrative that links two island cultures: England and Saint Lucia, while the film's protagonist becomes the Achilles of the Caribbean diaspora.
Derek Walcott passed away in 2017 on his native island, leaving behind him a precious legacy. Isaac Julien not only took inspiration from but also collaborated with Walcott in Paradise Omeros. As Walcott in his poems, Julien poetically interweaves pressing issues, such as migration and displacement into narratives that allow for an intimate, lyrical approach that can speak to us in a timeless manner.
Concurrently with the film installation, Ron Mandos is proud to present a selection of photographs from the Before Paradise series. This series consists of triptychs, diptychs and a new photographic work, all of which are portraits of characters in the film and a meditation on landscapes. As a homage to the late Derek Walcott, Isaac Julien has produced a new photographic work especially for this exhibition, titled Omeros - The Sea is History (Homage to Derek Walcott).
Paradise Omeros has been extensively exhibited worldwide, including Documenta 11 in Kassel, 2002, under Okwui Enwezor's curatorial direction. The film installation is in the collections of Moderna Musset (Sweden), IMMA (Ireland), Goetz Collection (Germany) and The Guggenheim; it has been exhibited at the De Pont Museum (The Netherlands) 2015; Fondación Helga de Alvear (Spain) in 2012; the Bass Museum of Art (USA) in 2010; Guggenheim Bilbao (Spain) 2009; and at the Edinburgh Film Festival (Scotland) 2003, among others.