TEN31 Productions premieres short film examining controversial statues

TEN31 Productions premieres short film examining controversial statues

Clockwise, from left, Richard Davia, as a statue of Robert E. Lee; Eric Auger; Stephanie Carey; and Mary Arnold as a statue of Virginia Brooks, on the set of TEN31 Productions’ short film, “Unalienable,” which was filmed at Prospect Terrace in Providence and will be released on Feb. 20. 

PAWTUCKET – The organization known for its performances featuring living statues is releasing a new short film that examines and comments on the debate over what to do with controversial monuments in the U.S.

Pawtucket-based TEN31 Productions, in honor of Black History Month, is hosting a virtual release of “Unalienable” on Saturday, Feb. 20, at 8 p.m. The three-minute silent film is about an imagined interaction of living statues portraying the likenesses of Ida B. Wells, a journalist, educator, early leader in the civil rights movement and a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Robert E. Lee, an American Confederate general; and Virginia Brooks, a suffragist and political reformer who had a close relationship with Wells and worked with her to advance and broaden the role of all women within the suffrage movement, states a release.

“Americans are being challenged to examine our past and to reimagine public spaces and how they can represent the true full story of our country,” said Joe Pari, co-founder of TEN31 Productions. “This demands thoughtful debate around removing, relocating and/or contextualizing statues and monuments, and erecting new ones that celebrate inclusion.”

This is the organization’s first film, which Pari wrote, directed, and produced. Eric Auger served as an editor, co-producer and creative consultant.

The list of events that inspired the film, Pari said, include the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other Black Americans, to the vandalized Christopher Columbus statue in Providence, and street artist Banksy’s response to the toppled Colston statue in England.

From the Black Lives Matter movement and protests of 2020, Pari noted, came the debate about commemorative statues in public spaces. As a living statue company, “we felt like we (could) tell a story about this,” he said. “A lot of TEN31’s work is about storytelling.”

After 20 years of TEN31 Productions, Pari said he’s most proud of this project, adding that he’s really excited for people to see it. The film, like statues, is silent, and “there’s something about the power of silence that we’ve always honored,” he said.

The film ends with “a call to action to come together,” Pari said. “I want to get all communities thinking creatively about how they can re-address statues … to tell a broader historic story.”

Pari, of Providence, is a member of the Special Committee for the Review of Commemorative Works, developed by the city of Providence’s Department of Art, Culture and Tourism to develop a more formal process for bringing commemorative work into the city. He said he’s hoping this film will also help get the word out about the advisory panel.

In terms of the debate, he said the solution is not always about removing statues. “I really love the re-interpretation idea,” he said, or adding something around a statue that contextualizes it.

As an LGBTQ-owned organization, TEN31 Productions “has strived, pushed and promoted inclusion in all aspects of its artwork, including a diverse production team and a diverse performer roster,” including encouraging clients to include BIPOC historical figures as part of their installations, performances and event experiences, according to organizers.

Everyone who participated in the making of the film donated their time, including Montage Media Productions; Mike Henriques, director of photography and editing; and Jessica Brown, cultural consultant. Tammy Brown played the role of Ida B. Wells; Mary Arnold played Virginia Brooks; and Richard Davia played Robert E. Lee. In addition to Auger, Stephanie Carey provided production and support.

To set a reminder to watch “Unalienable” during its release, visit https://youtu.be/SnO3yYn5LBU . For more information, visit wemakepretend.com . The film, which was shot at Prospect Terrace in Providence, will also live on the group’s Facebook and YouTube pages so people can watch it anytime after the release.

On the set of “Unalienable,” are Eric Auger, left, and Tammy Brown portraying the statue of Ida B. Wells.