‘Portal’: Unveiling COVID Isolation’s Lasting Impact, Streaming On AfroPoP Digital Shorts

July 28, 2023

The newest episode of Harlem-based Black Public Media’s AfroPoP Digital Shorts premieres on Monday, August 21, with Portal from acclaimed filmmaker Rodney Evans.

Portal is an atmospheric, documentary short about the lack of touch experienced by single people during the COVID-19 pandemic and how two queer BIPOC friends, Evans and Homay King, help sustain each other through communication and connection. Directed, produced and edited by Evans, the film presents the stories of the two friends through video, poetry and audio from phone calls. As they reflect on the struggles and challenges they each faced living alone during the COVID shutdown — the lack of human touch, the fear, the adjustments to remote work and forced seclusion — and the hopes they have for life in a post pandemic world, the pair also reminisce about how their support for one another, from a distance, helped them both endure.

Written by Evans and King, and featuring poetry composed by Evans, Portal offers viewers an up-close look at life during the pandemic and at the importance of friendship and chosen family during the COVID crisis and today. The film has been screened at the Woodstock Film Festival, the 2022 Outfest Fusion QTBIPOC Film Festival, BAMcinemaFest, Outfest40 Los Angeles and REELING2022, the 40th Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival.

Evans, who has tunnel vision due to the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, also reveals what it was like living with a disability and navigating the early days of COVID-19 in the documentary. The director — celebrated for his films Brother to Brother (2004) and The Happy Sad (2013) — chronicled his journey to learn how his sight loss would affect his life and career as a director in 2019’s Vision Portraits.


Portal will be available to stream for free on Black Public Media’s YouTube Channel beginning on Monday, August 21, 2023.

AfroPoP Digital Shorts is created and presented by Black Public Media (BPM), the Harlem-based national nonprofit which has been funding and distributing the work of Black and other filmmakers and creatives for over forty years.

An offshoot of BPM’s AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange, AfroPoP Digital Shorts showcases short films about life, art, and culture from across the African Diaspora in both documentary and narrative form. Other films now available to stream as part of the series include: The Black Disquisition, Quincy G. Ledbetter’s film about a traumatic event in a boy’s life that fractures his self-image and the difficult conversation his parents must have with him about race in America and Midnight Oildirector Bilal Motley’s examination of the 2019 explosion at Philadelphia’s PES oil refinery and how the event changed his views on environmental justice.


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New episodes of the AfroPoP Digital Shorts series release on the third Monday of the month. Future films in the series include:

Descended From The Promised Land: The Legacy of Black Wall Street by Nailah Jefferson and Laurens Jefferson, which follows the descendants of business owners in the once thriving Black Wall Street neighborhood and asks, “If the Tulsa Race Massacre had never happened, would Black Wall Street have influenced the entire nation?”

Lakeside’s Treasure by Rasheed Peters, a film portrait of Betty McDaniel, owner of Lakeside Treasures, an antique and vintage shop in Rogers Park, Chicago. Once just a post-retirement dream, the shop has been open for over 10 years and has become a staple in McDaniel’s life and for many living in Rogers Park and the greater Chicago area. This portrait personifies perseverance, dedication and, most importantly, heart.

For more on AfroPoP Digital Shorts and BPM, visit blackpublicmedia.org.

Photo credit: Filmmaker Rodney Evans as seen in Portal, part of the AfroPoP Digital Shorts series. By Kjerstin Rossi.

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