Super8, HD video, 25:40
Premiere: 54th Ann Arbor Film Festival
**Best Regional Filmmaker Award**
Distributor: Cinema Guild (US)
Official Film Website

/ Director / Writer / Camera / Sound / Edit /

How to Rust is an essay film that explores the space of overlap between the production of material goods and the production of histories. Detroit storyteller, Olayami Dabls, describes his installation “Iron Teaching Rocks How to Rust” as a metaphor for the forced assimilation of Africans to European culture and language, referencing racial biases still present today. Dabls’ bricolage of the postindustrial landscape becomes an implicit commentary on the half-life of Fordism as the film weaves a fable told in iron, wood, rocks, and mirrors. As the relationship between cultural production and place is being recast, How to Rust comments upon how we mythologize a former glory and shape an imagined future.

featuring the work of:
Olayami Dabls
Carbon Arts
Original score by 

“Dabls created a place that has its own time, what Octavio Paz would call “mythological time.” Mythological time, Paz writes, is “impregnated with all the particulars of our lives: it is as long as eternity or as short as a breath, ominous or propitious, fecund or sterile.” Mythological, or poetic, time is set in opposition to chronometric time, which marches on despite individual experiences, or the particularities of our lives. Thus, it is all the more significant that Dabls chose rocks as the metaphorical index of the African experience. Rocks, the stable timepieces of geologic time, mark the ever-flowing present in layers of “now.” Their sedimentary calendars inscribe temporalities that far exceed human experience. Yet, through his elaborated cosmology, Dabls’ rocks are thrust into a mythological time that remains forever relevant to today’s present.” - excerpt from Introduction, J. Yezbick

Words and images by Olayami Dabls. Edited by Maia Asshaq, Benjamin Gaydos, and Julia Yezbick. Photography and design by Benjamin Gaydos/goodgood (detroit). Risograph printing and production by Issue Press, Grand Rapids for Flint Magazine.

Iron Teaching How to Rust is available at Dabls’ MBAD African Bead Museum in Detroit and online from Flint Magazine and Issue Press.

“Iron’s history is linear, every year, it has to do something better than the year before. [...] But Rock’s history was in a circle. It was in harmony with nature. It copied nature. So transformation - death -  was a part of the life cycle. You were not cocerned about whether you were going to go up or down after you die. You knew that you were going to become an ancestor and you would be communicating with the people that you left behind.”
- Olamayi Dabls


2019 Balagan Film Series, AgX Film Collective, Waltham, MA.

2019 “Makings of You,” curated show, Annex Gallery, Hamtramck, MI

2019 Future of Work Symposium, Cinema Detroit, Detroit, MI

2018 Station Arts Space, Beirut, Lebanon

2017 Ethnofest, Athens Ethnographic Film Festival, Greece

2017 Eye+Ear Clinic, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

2017 Broad Underground Film Series, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum and Michigan State University, Lansing, MI.

2016 Jogjakarta Documentary Film Festival (FFD), Indonesia.

2016 Vision-core at Unurban, Los Angeles, CA.

2016 Detroit Institute of Arts, “Art as Ritual” conference, September 12, 2016.

2016 54th Ann Arbor Film Festival, Michigan, **Best Regional Filmmaker Award**

Cargo Collective 2017 — Frogtown, Los Angeles