February 23, 2022
...Lorraine O'Grady Film Club: "Medicine for Melancholy" (2008) by Barry Jenkins
After a one-night stand, two strangers spend 24 hours together exploring San Francisco. Wavering between intimacy and animosity, they debate their perspectives on love, gentrification, and the limits of identity. Barry Jenkins' film Medicine for Melancholy (2008) uses a desaturated color palette to reflect the moods of the characters and setting.

Still from Medicine for Melancholy, Barry Jenkins, 2008
Still from Medicine for Melancholy, Barry Jenkins, 2008


Barry Jenkins (b. 1979, Miami, FL) is a writer, producer, and director. Medicine for Melancholy was his first feature film and won him an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Feature. Jenkins directed and co-wrote the independent drama Moonlight (2016), which won numerous accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. Jenkins received an Oscar nomination for Best Director and jointly won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay with Tarell Alvin McCraney. He released his third directorial feature If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) to critical acclaim and earned nominations for his screenplay at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.


Lorraine O’Grady Film Club #3:

Medicine for Melancholy, Barry Jenkins, 2008 (88 minutes)
5pm PST / 8pm EST
Click here to join the Zoom screening


Also on our mind is The Black and White Show, curated by Lorraine O’Grady at Kenkeleba House in 1983. Conceiving of the entire exhibition as a conceptual artwork, O’Grady invited 14 Black artists and 14 white artists to produce work in only black and white. Her hope was that “achromaticity would heighten similarities and flatten differences,” equalizing the artworks and avoiding racialized interpretations.

Lorraine O’Grady, The Black and White Show installation view
Lorraine O’Grady, The Black and White Show installation view


How is desaturation used differently in Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy and O’Grady’s The Black and White Show?

How do Medicine for Melancholy and The Black and White Show speak to segregation and integration?

What emerges when color is removed?

Lorraine O’Grady, The Clearing: or Cortés and La Malinche, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, N. and Me, 1991, photomontage
Lorraine O’Grady, The Clearing: or Cortés and La Malinche, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, N. and Me, 1991, photomontage


In Medicine for Melancholy, Jo’s relationship with a mysterious rich white curator creates friction between her and Micah. Much of Lorraine O’Grady’s work concerns what John Waters calls “the last taboo” - sex and love between Black women and white men. Her diptych The Clearing: or Cortés and La Malinche, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, N. and Me alludes to the violent historical legacy of the couple depicted. The panel on the left paints an idyllic picture of a loving family, while the panel on the right evokes death, violation, and emotional dissociation.

How does The Clearing illuminate the troubling relationship between eroticism and domination?

What do Medicine for Melancholy and The Clearing communicate to us about interracial relationships?

Lorraine O’Grady explains, “my work makes the historic personal and the personal historic.” How might history affect romantic relationships in the present?

The Lorraine O’Grady Film Club is hosted by Selam Bekele and Meghan Smith every month, on Wednesdays, from December 2021 to March 2022.