Howard L. Mitchell, who has adopted the name GATO for his art, is a Portland-based artist, director, and writer of Afro-Latin descent born in Panama City, Panama. In his films, GATO depicts what we cannot see, interweaving the tangible and intangible to reveal "the fire beneath the ice of humanity." His 2018 film Forgive Us Our Debts is the fictional story of a terrified 13-year-old Black boy, Trey, who lives with his family in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. He hides foreclosure notices from his family, only to have his worst fears realized. The events within Trey’s home are rendered with intimacy and atmospheric effects that are dramatically punctuated by outside interferences: letters, a phone call, a knock on the door. While the much-reported displacement of families through gentrification reflects larger economic and political pressures affecting people across the United States, especially communities of color, GATO reminds us that each case is an existential and deeply personal story.
GATO’s training as a painter is apparent in his lush visual aesthetics. The film includes references to Dante Alighieri’s 1320 poem The Divine Comedy, which leads readers on an imaginary journey through the circles of hell. The film’s title adapts a line from “The Lord’s Prayer”—“forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”—leaving the viewer to confront layers of questions. What is the debt being incurred, and who are we asking to forgive?
Mitchell is furthering his themes in a feature-length thriller, currently in development, set in Portland, Oregon.
Save the date! Join us for a screening of the film, followed by a special Q&A with the artist on April 8 at 2 pm. You can find more information at this link.