Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins has produced The Gaze, a stand-alone project born during the filming of the television adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which premiered May 14. The short film is not an episode of the show, but rather a fascinating collection of non-narrative portraits captured spontaneously on the sidelines. At the heart of this approach is the desire to highlight the African American gaze through a dialogue with the painful past of slavery and the suffering inflicted on so many men and women.

“I looked across the set and realized I was looking at my ancestors, a group of people whose images have been largely lost in the historical record. Without thinking, we halted production on The Underground Railroad and instead used our tools to capture portraits…of them.” says the director.