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Review: Subjects of Desire (2021)

Subjects of Desire Review


During the SXSW Film Festival, social relevance is always adjacent to the films that are part of its lineup. One that will certainly stir up discussion is Jennifer Holness‘s Subjects of Desire, in which black women speak about the beauty standards that are historically rooted in society’s perception. We follow the stories of some women who enlighten us of the offences that still lurk in modern society, as black beauty is used by white people as a fashion trend and do not have the conscience of how this affects the people they want to pay compliment. Masterfully written and with charismatic participants, Subjects of Desire is an essential documentary that makes the world reflect on how far society still needs to go in order to pay respect to black women who have been mistreated since the time of slavery.

More than just points of view, Subjects of Desire reflects in relevant problematics that still exist today, specially the sexualization of the black woman and the stereotypes that media and other forms of entertainment still feed onto this day. For example, hip hop music has a history of portraying women as sexual rewards of their successful rappers, driven by the need of getting easy money. There is no harm in feeling free to express your sexuality, but there is definitely an issue of stereotypical conotations that are the result of years and years of culture inappropriation. Among these women is Rachel Dolezal, who was the subject of Netflix‘s documentary The Rachel Divide, and is still a figure of controversy to this day, and after so many years defending she sees herself as a black woman, she is starting to be heard in a more understanding way. But while Dolezal is an exception to the rule, and even now this is still being studied by the black community, beauty is something that has been manipulated by a capitalist society  always worried about the money it receives from it, rather than understanding if this is somehow right or complimentary for black women.

Subjects of Desire Review

We still have a long way to go and Subjects of Desire is the thought-provoking documentary that will make black women proud. What defines black beauty? Why has History been so mistreating to the black women? How do stereotypes reflect how these women feel about themselves? How can we perpetuate something that is not ours to have an opinion of? By making detailed observations of essential questions and using the right women to speak about them, Subjects of Desire is an extraordinary exercise that is genuine, bold and enlightening on these issues and never loses focus along the way. With lots of women from different ages, different backgrounds and different life experiences, Subjects of Desire has so much juicy approaches to a socially relevant matter, that never quite makes us turn our eyes from it. This is something truly unique and special, rare in the documentary field. Just like other examples of empowerment, Subjects of Desire dwelves with an extremely important message that is essential viewing for everyone and has an incredibly amount of information treated in the most surprising and captivating way.

Holness manages to bring something that will resonate and still feel fresh for years to come and these women are brave enough to never step down towards injustice, disrespect and making sure that black beauty is appreciated for the right reasons and not let the rest of society to define who they are and what they are capable of. It’s essential filmmaking of essential stories and this is what the world needs right now. Subjects of Desire is engaging, bold and powerful. And that is not enough to describe it, but I lack the words to say how beautiful it is. Hopefully inspiring for every black woman in the world, Subjects of Desire is, indeed, desirable as a film with all the elements it needs to become an instant classic.

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Title: Subjects of Desire

Original Title: Subjects of Desire

Director: Jennifer Holness

Runtime: 105 min.

Trailer | Subjects of Desire