“Strange Fruit”

a film on a brutal topic



This was a very tough photograph to base a music video on. This was produced for Imago Dei Community in Portland, OR for a live performance of the song before a sermon series entitled “Saving Justice” in honor of Martin Luther King. It was made to remember how far we still have to go for reconciliation in America. 

We all still struggle with some level of racism. By not forgetting the dark deeds of a past not long ago, we engage in the fact that life isn’t as easy for people of color. We were all born into different cultures, and so we must empathize with those who have been discriminated against based on their color, gender, or religion. In our lives, include those that look or pray differently from you. We were born into a corrupted culture, so let’s do something to transform our society by careful thought and conversation. Practice empathy, not apathy.

1930 in Indiana, a lynching occurred of black men by the people of the town in plain sight. A photographer was there to capture the moment. The horror of the photograph inspired a Jewish school teacher to act and write the poem, “Bitter Fruit.” From there it grew and moved Billie Holiday to tears so much that she transformed it to song. I’ve taken the original photograph, and the song and transformed it to video. It’s a dirty image that asks us to seek reconciliation.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” -MLK

Created and composited by Nate Grubbs
Song written by Abel Meeropol in 1937
First performed by Billie Holiday in 1939
Performed here by Nina Simone in 1965
Photograph by Lawrence Beitler in 1930
Apple illustration by Levi Wells Prentice in 1890
Produced for Imago Dei Community’s “Saving Justice” sermon series in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Technical details: This video was produced by separating out layers from archival photographs in Photoshop. Then the layers were brought into After Effects for animation.

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