a black woman on stage in a red dress holds up her arm.

Commissioned and produced at EMPAC during the COVID pandemic, The African Desperate has been nominated for several awards and is distributed by streaming platform MUBI. Film still, The African Desperate, 2022.

Courtesy of Dominica Inc.

The African Desperate

Martine Syms
Monday, October 24, 2022 at 6PM

The African Desperate follows artist Palace Bryant on one very long day in 2017 that starts with her MFA graduation in New York’s Hudson Valley and ends at the Chicago Blue Line Station. Set against the lush backdrop of late summer, Palace navigates the pitfalls of self-actualization and the fallacies of the art world.

Shot through with Martine Syms' celebrated conceptual grit, humor, social commentary, and vivid visual language, and starring artist Diamond Stingily, The African Desperate leads us on an intimate and riotously funny journey through picturesque landscapes and artists’ studios, from academic critiques to backseat hookups, and from the night of a wild graduation party to the morning of a lonely trip back home.

A conversation with Martine Syms will follow the screening. 

Main Image: Film still, The African Desperate, 2022. Courtesy of Dominica Inc.


The African Desperate trailer

Dates + Tickets

The African Desperate
Martine Syms
Monday 24
6:00 PM
October 2022

Covid-19 Policy⁣

Campus community: RPI protocols apply. ID check required.⁣
Off-campus audience: Proof of Vaccination or masking with N-95 mask required. ⁣

Some events may require everyone to wear a mask in the venue.⁣
Masks will be available on entry.⁣

Presented By

EMPAC Fall 2022

Event Type


Production Credits

Written and directed by Martine Syms and starring artist Diamond Stingily, The African Desperate is co-written by Rocket Caleshu and edited by Nicole Otero, with cinematography by Daisy Zhou and an original score by Aunt Sister, Colin Self, and Ben Babbit. It is produced by Vic Brooks and Rocket Caleshu with executive producers Sadie Coles, Bridget Donahue, Lana Kim, and Jett Steiger. 

The African Desperate was filmed on-location, with production support from EMPAC’s staff, at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, White Feather Farm Foundation, and TechCity in Ulster County, with post-production sound by EMPAC audio engineer Stephen McLaughlin undertaken in conjunction with Sym’s fall 2021 residency at EMPAC.

The film is produced by Dominica Inc., Ways & Means, Sadie Coles HQ, Bridget Donahue, and EMPAC at Rensselaer. 

The African Desperate premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam in Europe and in the US as the closing night feature at MoMA and Lincoln Center’s New Directors / New Films festival in Spring 2022. It is distributed world-wide by MUBI.