This week Hold On heads to one of my favorite film gatherings, BlackStar Film Festival. I've now had the honor of screening three films at the festival (including Homegoings which won the 2013 Jury Prize in Documentary) and each time I leave inspired and encouraged to continue making new work. The theme for this year's festival is Resistance, showcasing stories of global struggle. The festival will also honor returning filmmaker, Ava DuVernay. Hope to see some of you there!
Next week Hold On heads to the American Black Film Festival in Miami where it will be screening in the World Showcase. Most recently, the film played opening night of Seattle's ShortsFest and was named one of Sundance's "10 Must-See Shorts" by IndieWire. In other news, our very own Jimmie Jeter has joined the cast of Chicago's Hamilton. Congrats J.J.!
I'm excited to announce my new fiction short, Hold On will premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. The film tells the story of a young man who is left to care for his grandmother one morning. The two-hander stars activist/former model Bethann Hardison who plays opposite newcomer Jimmie Jeter. Thanks to a talented & generous cast & crew!
Over the weekend I was honored to accept the Emerging Talent Award from the Voice of a Woman Festival whose mission is to feature the aesthetic expressions and points-of-view of women artists, as well as to give 'voice' to the stories and experiences of women and girls. Other honorees included fellow filmmaker Shola Lynch, VR designer Resh Sidu, the team behind Equal Means Equal, and Gamechanger Films. Thanks to VOW for presenting our works!
Last Wednesday, You Can Go was 1 of 8 films selected to screen at the 11th Annual NBC-Universal Short Film Festival held at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles. Big congrats to screenwriter (and dear friend) Daniel Solé, who was awarded Best Writer — and to all the finalists and their teams on their amazing work!
After showings in Seattle and Montreal, You Can Go recently made its European debut at the XXIII Capalbio International Film Festival in Tuscany where it was awarded the RIGENERAZIONE Prize. The festival, founded by the legendary Michelangelo Antonioni, is uniquely dedicated to the art of short film (and also happens to take place in a really cool medieval hilltop castle). It was inspiring to see so much great work from around the world -- particularly from those who are working under some of the most challenging socio-political conditions. Congrats to everyone on their films!
Please tune in on November 9th at 8pm EST for Lifetime's Women of Honor a Veteran's Day tribute with special guests First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. As co-producer, I aided in both the development and the filming of the show which culminated in a unique trip to the White House.
Aside from keeping Mrs. Obama's seat warm, it was both an honor and a privilege getting to know three remarkable women – Cpt. Rolona Brown, Kathleen Causey and Jennifer Madden – who shared their stories of courage and sacrifice with us. Thanks for tuning in and for supporting our veterans, both men and women.
Blackout, a new documentary I helped to research and produce will have its debut on PBS' American Experience next Tuesday, July 14th. Thanks to all the New Yorkers who shared their stories with us on and off camera. Below is a clip featuring Brownsville native and graffiti writer, Doc Tc5. Hope you enjoy the show!
On the night of July 13, 1977, lightning strikes took out several critical power lines, causing a catastrophic power failure and plunging some 8 million people into darkness in the New York City area. First responders, journalists, shop owners, Con Edison employees, and other New Yorkers tell about what happened when the lights went out.
This past week I realized it's been 10 years since making, "Rubber Soles," my senior-year film at NYU. Inspired by an earlier wave of students like Jim McKay and Peter Sollett, I took a community-based approach to filmmaking, collaborating with the Dunlevy Milbank Center, a branch of The Children's Aid Society in Harlem.
Working with the kids at Milbank (none of whom had acted before) proved to be both a joy and a success. Shot on 16mm, Rubber Soles went on to play festivals widely (including Tribeca & San Francisco) before airing on the PBS short film showcase, "Reel New York." Thanks to the cast (especially Evan and Regina), the crew and to all of the film's supporters.
Recently digitized from not-so luminous BetaSP tape, I'm pleased to announce "Rubber Soles" is now available online.
This February I escaped from New York to the Mississippi Delta as a guest instructor at Barefoot Workshops, a media arts organization that teaches individuals and organizations how to use new media to tell stories.
In this three-week filmmaking workshop students learned to produce, shoot and edit documentaries on members of the Clarksdale community. The workshop culminated in a community-wide screening that featured two 15 minute films. It was incredibly gratifying to work with such talented students and to meet the generous towns people of Clarksdale.
"A Blues Redemption," featuring Omar Gordon, is about a young blues musician who must face his troubled past; and "The New Roxy," is the story of Robin Cullonus' efforts to re-open an abandoned movie theater in the historically-black New World neighborhood. Congrats to all the students on their great work!
Proud to have reported from the field on this Frontline episode directed by Mary Robertson. Tune in tonight at 10pm on PBS to watch Omarina's Story, part 2 of an hour-long program on education, class and race in America.
I am pleased to announce, Homegoings: A Dance, a short companion film to my feature documentary, has been selected to screen on Opening Night of the 42nd Annual Dance on Camera Festival at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. This original dance was choreographed by Janet Wong and performed by LaMichael Leonard, Jr. and Shayla-Vie Jenkins of the Bill T. Jones/Arne Zane Dance Company. Below is a trailer and a few behind-the-scenes pictures from our film shoot.
Homegoings was recently honored with a nomination for "Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Filmmaking for Television" by the 2014 Cinema Eye Honors, who recognizes "the highest commitment to rigor and artistry in the nonfiction field." Congrats to my fellow nominees and to all of the night's winners. It was great to see so many doc geeks in one room!
UPDATE: On August 12th, Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk violates the constitutional rights of New Yorkers by targeting young minority men and has ordered an independent monitor to oversee sweeping changes to the police department. In addition, the Columbia Journalism Review recently published a piece highlighting the video series and its powerful use of storytelling.
I recently collaborated with Firelight Films to create a series of short documentaries on the controversial policing tactic known as "stop-and-frisk." This project was commissioned by Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York.
While researching the project, I attended Lloyd vs. City of New York, a class action lawsuit challenging the NYPD's practice of unconstitutional stop and frisks. In addition to hearing court testimony, I spoke with countless other young people who've been impacted by the policy, as well as police officers, parents and community leaders.
You can watch two of the stories below or view the whole series at whereiamgoing.org.
Last Friday over 1200 New Yorkers packed the Apollo Theater for the Harlem premiere of Homegoings. A special thanks to Daniel Roumain (the film's composer) and the Harlem Chamber Players who kicked the screening off with an incredible live performance; and to everyone who came out in support of the film!
Tonight Homegoings will be broadcast nationally on PBS's POV series at 10pm (check local listings). For those of you in New York who would still like to see it on the big screen, the film is having a limited theatrical release at Maysles Cinema until July 1st.
“Exquisitely tender. . . one of those rare opportunities to go toward the thing we fear most—death—and realize how much joy and comfort there is in it, when handled with grace and care. Thoughtful and enlightening.” – The Washington Post.
Both The Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News ran feature stories about the film last week and Filmmaker Magazine called Homegoings, "A poetically crafted exploration. . . poignant, inspirational and unexpectedly uplifting."
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with several artists for the television series Your Voice, Your Story, produced by Firelight Films for PBS' WORLD Channel. Tune in this spring to hear life lessons, personal anecdotes and cautionary tales from singer BeBe Winans, actor John Leguizamo, musician John Forté and poet Lemon Andersen. I was inspired by their enormous creative drive and hope you will be, too.