Category Archives: Creative

22Oct/20

Wunmi Mosaku Says the Lovecraft Country Experience and Being Able to Speak About Racism was Therapeutic

Wunmi Mosaku

Award-winning actress, Wunmi Mosaku (Instagram), has been featured in some amazing content from Luther to Black Mirror and has had her most recent success with the HBO hit series Lovecraft Country. The British- Nigerian actress spoke with Taji Mag about her character, Ruby Baptiste, in Lovecraft and her experience as a Black actress working on the set of a show featuring a predominantly Black cast with a Black female showrunner. 

*SPOILER ALERT*

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): During episode four, “Strange Case,” we saw Ruby transform into a white woman, how much do you think that experience affected Ruby? 

Wunmi Mosaku (WM): Ruby is a very confident self-assured woman. Being white did not change that for her. She did appreciate walking around freely, her skin color not incriminating her or being weaponized against her. Ruby mentions she was railing and raging around the streets, people were scared for her and not scared of her. 

I think Ruby will always use the magic potion as a tool for herself. She is not disillusioned, like “Gimme some more, gimme some more! This is the life I want to live!” Ruby is as Black on the inside as she is on the outside when the potion turns her white. I don’t think the transformation comes with joy or freedom for her. Ruby is Ruby and she loves who she is. She just wants everyone out there to stop fucking with her and let her be brilliant. Ruby wants to be all that she is without any interruption. 

Ruby has learned a lot and her eyes are open. If anything the transformation made her love herself more. 

Wunmi Mosaku, Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Wunmi Mosaku & Jurnee Smollett-Bell

DDF: Do you think during the course of the season that Ruby gravitates more towards Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee) than she does towards her sister, Leti ( Jurnee Smollett-Bell)? 

WM: I think there’s truth in that. Ruby and Leti have such a tense relationship and truly don’t understand each other. Maybe it’s because they walk around the world so differently with different privileges and lack thereof. It’s also because Leti is difficult. Ruby has this idea that if she works hard enough and cracks through this whole system, she’ll be apart of it rather than against it. 

Yes, sometimes Black people can “crack” through the system, but let’s face it you can be famous as whoever, be stopped by the police, and be treated inappropriately. 

Ruby has this eye-opening experience and growth from Leti. Whereas before she was the big sister that looked after her little sister and bailed her out many times. Ruby would be like, “Leti, you can stay with me but when are you going to get a real job like the rest of us?”

Ruby and Leti do not have an equally yoked relationship. Ruby is kind of Leti’s mom in a way? They’ve both had a weird relationship with their mom. With Ruby having a mother-daughter relationship with Leti, it’s really hard to be open and honest. To be able to say how she feels and how the world is treating her as a dark-skinned woman when her sister is a light-skinned woman and has these privileges, plus someone looking after her, Atticus. 

Ruby doesn’t open up to Leti. Leti does not even know Ruby moved out of her nice apartment to pay for their mother’s funeral until she reconnects with her sister in the first episode.

Wunmi Mosaku

DDF: Can you interpret the William/Christina and Ruby relationship? 

WM: There is something about when she first meets William, that she just lets it all out. While reading the script I thought, ‘Why is she telling her business to this stranger?’ but there is some chemistry between them – which is obviously sexual in episode four. Ruby’s relationship between Christina and William kind of veers. William gets one side of her, which is physical and has a magical connection, while with Christina she is honest, it’s not explained but it’s understood.

DDF: Ruby’s character is a talented musician. Who would you say would be your top three favorite artists from any time period? 

WM: I would say, Jill Scott, Billie Holiday, Erykah Badu and  I really love Red Hot Chili Peppers but mostly their album “Californication.”

DDF: What made being on this show so unique?  

WM: Just being on the set of Lovecraft Country, having Misha as my showrunner, and being able to talk about my experiences as a Black woman was great. Being able to talk about being a Black woman with a Black woman on set was a great experience. I did not do that beyond my husband or my siblings. I had to do it every day for work, during these interviews. I have to talk about body images, these things I did not talk about. It was just like “Let me get this work done.”  Talking about those things has been both scary and therapeutic. I feel like I’m growing every time I have these conversations. I have never been on a show so Black before.

Wunmi Mosaku

DDF: Is there anything you learned about yourself while portraying this character? 

WM: I feel changed spiritually and emotionally by portraying Ruby. Her confidence in who she is which includes intelligence, sexuality, and education. Ruby is so beautiful and she loves herself, it’s so beautiful and rebellious. She isn’t afraid of the changes that have been made in her because of her experiences. Rubi embraces these changes that have happened to her intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. She doesn’t try to fit back into who she was five minutes ago, two years ago, etc. I feel like I have taken on a little bit of that. 

I love myself by playing Ruby. I never thought I’d play a character like Ruby. People always struggled to dress me because I am not this size or my hair is too kinky. I always thought I am not commercial, I am not this or I am not that. I feel so much more confident because I embraced all of me and I was encouraged to by Misha. 

Hopefully, you have already watched Wunmi Mosaku play the charismatic Ruby Baptiste in the horror series Lovecraft Country. If not, you can catch the full season on HBO Max. Wunmi Mosaku is also starring in the upcoming Netflix thriller, His House, about a refugee couple that escapes from war-torn South Sudan. 

10Oct/20

What Jonathan Majors Loves About Lovecraft Country and Why He Wants to Play Superman

Jonathan Majors

It was last year when I was able to watch the highly touted Last Black Man in San Francisco and I loved every single bit of it. Not only because of the title or the visually stunning camera shots, but because of the powerful performance of Jonathan Majors. I didn’t know much about the 31-year-old actor, all I knew was that his performance in the final act of the film showed the promise of a rising star. 

Jonathan Majors’ new series hit, Lovecraft Country on HBO, and the Spike Lee helmed, Da Five Bloods, has made way to take part in many big-budget films. Luckily for Taji Mag, Majors took time out to talk about the new series, his GQ feature, and his desire to portray Superman. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): How do you keep your faculties together given all you have gone through in Lovecraft Country? 

Jonathan Majors (JM): Love, man! I think that’s the key. He [Atticus aka Tic] is the most selfless character I’ve played. The alternative is if I fail the family fails. If I don’t get this right, Leti goes down, if I don’t get this right Uncle George goes down. We know how this plays out in the series. He loves his family so much he is willing to take the hit and keep on going because failure is not an option. 

DDF: In episode 6, Meet Me in Daegu, we see Atticus’s life during the Korean War and relationship with Ji-ah. Who do you think is more of the monster Ji-ah or Atticus? 

JM: In one of the scenes, Ji-ah tries to persuade Atticus that he is the monster. I would say from Atticus’s point of view, he would be the monster. He was closest to freedom when he was with Ji-ah and then it was snatched away. Exoneration was close but snatched away. That event made him double down on the idea that he was a monster. For some reason or another, he was not worthy of this love between him and Ji-ah because it all went bad.

Jonathan Majors

DDF: What was your reaction after you read episode 6 “Meet Me in Dego”? 

JM: To me, that episode is very different from the other episodes. I love the episode because it gave me insight into who Tic was. From that episode, there is a transition from “Tic” to Atticus. When episode 6 ends, it is the birth of Atticus. He knows too much now. He’s seen physical violence, he’s done physical violence and war crimes. Now he’s experiencing something so mystical, spiritual, monstrous and it’s stuck in his brain. So when I read the script, I was like “Cool, this episode unlocks a great deal of information.” It was so great, I happened to have read episode 6 before we started shooting episodes 2 and beyond. So I could walk around with that feeling of dread and fear. This is necessary because, as you see in the series, Atticus calls back to Korea multiple times. I loved the script! It’s sort of a ballet piece I would say.  

DDF: I read some of the GQ article you were featured in. It mentioned your father was in Desert Storm; your paternal grandfather served in World War II, your maternal grandfather in Korea and Vietnam.  What kind of memorable advice did they give you and have you used it for roles like Atticus in Lovecraft Country? 

JM: It’s interesting how the men in my life work. Advice never really comes. As cliche as it sounds, we lead by example. Take care of your business, look after your brother, make up your bed, say what you need to say and that’s it. Get your work done and do your best. These are simple things that are inherent in survival. More so when it comes from men whose lives been in jeopardy since their genesis. Then there are ancestors, that is who hooked me on set. They were with me and looked after me. Sometimes they would tell me how to walk. The baron of them is what I use and remember to portray Atticus. 

Jonathan Majors
Jonathan Majors as Atticus in Lovecraft Country

DDF: In episode 7 we see Atticus go into a time portal. If he were to be transported to the present day, how would he react to what’s going with Breonna Taylor and racial injustice? 

JM: I think Atticus would hit the front line. Atticus knows things, he knows magic. There’d be a whole genre of action taken. 

I think emotionally he would be saddened. Especially because there’s such a jump of over 70 years and he’s worked so hard for protection. So, to see his tribe adjacent with sister [Breonna] Taylor is not protected. It could be an existential crisis with him.

DDF: During your Zoom interview with Jimmy Fallon, I saw you had a guitar in the background. Do you play guitar or any instruments? 

JM: I play a little bit of guitar and am learning how to improve my playing skills. I am also learning to play saxophone and to play the harmonica. So yeah, I get down. 

DDF: What is your favorite thing to listen to? 

JM: It’s a mixture of things. It depends on the day. If I had put on some music now I’d say, Otis Redding, Ella Fitzgerald, Coltrane, and Dizzy Gillepsie. 

DDF: Is there an artist you would like to portray in a biopic? 

JM: Oh yeah, I’d play Coltrane. I’d like to try that out. 

DDF: Would you like to write and direct that project  yourself? 

JM: I’d be involved. I think if I had the time and spirit hit me, I could get it done. I think he is such a fascinating man. 

DDF: If you could portray a superhero or villain in a movie, who would they be? 

JM: To be honest, I have an infatuation with Superman. I love Superman. I think they’ve gotten him wrong in film this whole time. Somehow we have to get Metropolis caught up in Gotham because I would like to play the Riddler. If we could somehow get that going where the Riddler takes his interest off Batman and he focuses on Superman, that would be crazy! 

DDF: You may have to pitch it to DC films! 

JM: You can produce it, we can roll! 

The future is looking bright for Jonathan Majors as he prepares to star in the upcoming star-studded film The Harder They Fall with Idris Alba. There are also talks of him portraying a villain in the MCU, rumored to be the next big villain after Thanos. Until then make sure to tune into HBO and HBO MAX to catch the latest episodes of Lovecraft Country

29Aug/20

Tenet is a Time Traveling, Thought Provoking, Espionage Thriller

Four months… it’s been four months since I have been to a movie theater because of COVID-19. I used hella bleach wipes on my seat before I sat down but it was worth seeing Tenet at a press screening, especially because it was in IMAX® and there were like 6 people in the theater. The director used utilized a mixture of IMAX® and 70mm film to bring the story to life so it only made sense to watch the film in its intended form. After viewing Tenet, I understand why the studio pushed to show Tenet in its truest form.

Visually stunning and action-packed is how I describe the first act Tenet and, given its director, I expected nothing less. It was cool following the Protagonist (yep, that’s the lead character’s name!), played by John David Washington, as he stealthily took out the opposition to reach his target. Angles in which these are shot are done artfully and the perspectives felt very immersive.  It was like experiencing virtual reality without the glasses.

“The movie challenges our traditional ways of interpreting time, interpreting what we perceive is real, our learned behaviors.”

John David Washington

The second act provided some great action scenes, especially when the Protagonist and his partner use a contraption to scale up a wall. It was a bit exciting, something I would not do and I am sure Jonathan David Washington didn’t do either. If he did, no doubt he’s a badass. I feel at this point in the film the audience starts to grow with the Protagonist as he leans into this new role as a spy, using his military training. It’s funny because there is a part of the film where the Protagonist meets an informant and he mentions that to pull off his portrayal of a wealthy client he would have to wear better clothing than the Brooks Brothers brand.

“We’re all a little bit obsessed with time, aren’t we? It’s something that, whoever you are, wherever you’re from, whatever your life experience is, you know you can’t do anything about it. It rules you. I can’t really speak for Chris, but that’s my perspective on it. It’s interesting because, given the fact that time is universal, it’s also something that you feel very subjectively: you know, kids feel time very differently from adults. I feel like it’s speeding up immeasurably. And then, during this pandemic, our perception of time has been a whole other thing…days have felt like weeks and months have felt like minutes. It’s been very weird.”

– John David Washington

I have to be honest, the third and fourth act had me at the edge of my seat. Seeing the Protagonist have to make timely choices to save the world and save a life was exciting. The film became trippy once I got to see how the inversion world works. I finally understand why the characters were heavily featured on the movie posters and trailers wearing masks. The inversion world deprives you of oxygen and causes crazy reactions like being caught on fire causes you to then suffer from hyperthermia. 

It was also interesting how Johnathan’s character tried to change the timeline but had to understand the grandfather paradox before he did anything. The explanation of it and inversion can make you get lost in your thoughts. I found myself getting lost in the information abyss trying to understand the concept after I watched the film. Per the dictionary, the grandfather paradox is defined as a causality paradox speculated about in theories of time-travel in which traveling back in time would allow one to alter the conditions at the earlier time in such a way as to make current conditions impossible, as by causing the death of one’s grandfather, making one’s very existence impossible.

The climax war scene was intense! I was rooting for Jonathan and his team to stop the antagonist from killing himself and the world. That scene reminded me of the Co-op missions on Halo 4 – I know, I haven’t played video games in a minute. The visual effects were on point during this war scene, people and things going backward as our heroes try to thwart the plans of the villain. 

I enjoyed the film, the storyline had a dope plot twist that made me want to see more of this world and I wondered what the other timelines looked like. There were also some intense moments where I could hear and see that John was Denzel Washington’s son. Some of the film’s viewers will also have to google words like inversion and grandfather paradox to understand more of how the science of the film worked… or maybe it was just me. Anyway, Tenet is the action, espionage, sci-fi film I’ve been looking for. It was refreshing to see a film that was more entertaining than cliche.

26Aug/20

Mr. SOUL!’s Premiere Virtual Kickback Will Be Hosted By Actress/Comedian Amanda Seales

From left to right: Actress Amanda Seales, filmmaker Melissa Haizlip; actor and Executive Producer Blair Underwood; legendary director/producer Stan Lathan (who also appears in the film); Grammy® winner and the film’s composer Robert Glasper; award-winning writer, poet, and activist Nikki Giovanni; award-winning poets/musicians The Last Poets and Felipe Luciano; the R&B group Black Ivory;  and the iconic author, poet, and professor Sonia Sanchez. 

Mr. SOUL! is a documentary chronicling the development and eventual end of the Black variety show SOUL! featuring Black artists and entertainers alike. Ellis Hazlip, the brainchild of SOUL!, is shown to be a visionary ahead of his time. SOUL! was celebrated and considered to be America’s first “Black Tonight Show”. Before Oprah, before Arsenio Hall, there was Ellis Hazlip aka Mr. SOUL! Coincidentally, the show did feature a teenage Arsenio Hall as a guest. 

To celebrate the documentary’s premiere, Amanda Seales will host a virtual kickback Sunday, August 30th at 4 pm PT/7 pm ET online with a bevy of known creatives, artists, and entertainers. The following guests are scheduled to appear: Filmmaker Melissa Haizlip; actor and Executive Producer Blair Underwood; legendary director/producer Stan Lathan (who also appears in the film); Grammy® winner and the film’s composer Robert Glasper; award-winning writer, poet, and activist Nikki Giovanni; award-winning poets/musicians The Last Poets and Felipe Luciano; the R&B group Black Ivory;  and the iconic author, poet, and professor Sonia Sanchez.

“Our Mr. SOUL! PREMIERE KICKBACK will be just like a re-creation of the SOUL! show for a new audience, with these amazing guests in conversation with Amanda Seales. Amanda will moderate a conversation with both artists from the film and the original series, to talk about the cultural impact of SOUL! and its special guests, like James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni, and the legacy of Ellis Haizlip and SOUL! for a millennial audience,” says the film’s director Melissa Haizlip.

Mr. Soul will premiere this Friday, August 28th at over 60 theaters across the country in the virtual cinema space. The film premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival where it was gained much support and has won 17 awards, including; the International Documentary Association (IDA) Best Music Documentary, AFI Docs Audience Award, and Woodstock Best Documentary. 

The tickets to the star-studded virtual kickback are part of the MR.SOUL! ticket package which can be be purchased here. The event promises to be a recreated experience from the SOUL! television experience show with tons of entertainment. 

Mr. SOUL! is directed, written, and produced by Melissa Haizlip, featuring music composed and performed by Grammy® winning musician/composer Robert Glasper, with the voice of Ellis Haizlip by Grammy® / Emmy® winner Blair Underwood – one of the film’s Executive Producers. The virtual cinema release run is presented together by Shoes In The Bed Productions and Open Your Eyes & Think MF.

16Aug/20

Lovecraft Country: Is Racism Scarier Than Ghosts, Monsters, and Witches?

SYNOPSIS: HBO’s new drama series, LOVECRAFT COUNTRY, based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff of the same name, debuts this August. The series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he joins up with his friend Letitia “Leti” (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams). This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback.

If you love 80’s movie nostalgia and horror-themed shows like Tales From the Crypt and Underground, this is the series for you. Showrunner and creator of Underground, Misha Green, brings all of these elements together in the new HBO MAX series Lovecraft Country. Me being a horror buff and a supporter of the various creatives involved (i.e. Jurnee Smollet-Bell, Jonathan Major, Jordan Peele, etc.), I had to check it out and satisfy my pallet for a Black horror series. Added bonus, the series showrunner is a Black woman, something not common in Hollywood. 

Courtney B. Vance, Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollet-Bell
Photo courtesy of Warner Media

The Horror of Lovecraft Country

While watching the characters interact with the world around them, I wondered if racism in the 1950s was scarier than the ghosts and monsters? I saw the terrifying look Black characters had when they were being questioned by white police officers and I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between those moments and the moments when they encountered a monster.

I asked actress, Jurnee Smollet-Bell, which was scarier, racism in the 1950s or monsters, ghosts, and witches? She replied, “With the Monsters, what you see is what you get. You kind of know what to expect? It’s pure danger. You do whatever you can to escape, otherwise you’re screwed. With systemic racism, which is what this country has been built upon and has yet to dismantle, it’s more horrifying because it’s more nuanced. You have to fight it at every single step of your life. In the pursuit of your happiness, whether it’s purchasing a home and fight against the redlining and housing discrimination in the 1950s, not being able to get a loan from a bank if you wanted to purchase in a certain neighborhood, driving while Black, trying to apply for a job at a local store. It’s actually more oppressive and terrifying to me because you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know when it’s coming.”   

I can definitely see the Jordan Peele influence – using racism as a horror element. Showrunner, Misha Green, mentions in her Warner Media interview how much influence Jordan Peele had stating, “When we were working on Lovecraft – he was doing the film Us at the time – we talked a lot about our shared belief regarding horror, which is: You need the metaphor. I’d played with that on ‘Underground’; that it was a heist movie but set in slavery times.” 

Actor Jonathan Majors also noted Jordan Peele’s influence. “This series shows we as Black people contain multitudes. We have all these things inside of us. We know that horror is a part of our life, we know Afrofuturism is just our imagination. It gives us permission to move into any genre we want. I was surprised that Jordan Peele took Black bodies and put them into a horror genre and expanded the scope.”

Jurnee Smollet-Bell
photo courtesy of Warner Media

Tic and Leti

The series lead protagonist, Atticus Aka Tic, is played by actor Jonathan Majors. The character has a love for books and a protector mentality – an extremely compelling character. Starting off as a nerdy kid with glasses who transformed into a courageous young man, I wanted to see more background of his transition into manhood. I discovered Majors had researched his role by reading various authors, some of whom are mentioned in the series. When Atticus is introduced, he’s seen reading a book and even mentions his love for books. I ask Majors if he had to survive in a mansion filled with ghosts and monsters what historical black figure would he choose to be with him? He responded, “Fredrick Douglas and Nat Turner because, in this type of scenario, we have to do a trio. Like Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman. It would be me, Frederick Douglas, because he has the brains and Nat Turner because he’s a fighter! Go homeboy Nat!”  

Leti is a very amiable character. Her confidence, charisma, and charm had my attention every time she was on screen. She embodies the strength of strong female Black lead actresses from that time period. Smollet-Bell explained the inspiration for the character came from her grandmother, whom she never got to meet. “My grandmother’s nickname was Showtime! I grew up hearing the stories about her being a single mother, raising four kids, and being so mistreated by white folks whom she cleaned the house for. Yet they could not rob her of her dignity!” Smollet-Bell also read prominent writers like James Baldwin and Gwendalyn Brooks to research for the role. She mentioned her search to find the fire inside Eartha Kitt to bring life to her character Letitia and it shows. 

Misha and the Music

One of the elements that set the tone of each scene was the amazing soundtrack. I found myself lured in the various songs and speeches that really give the series life. In my head, I thought, “Yeah we needed to have a Black showrunner in charge of this show because this soundtrack is dope and engaging.” Being a music, tv, and film lover, I was definitely satisfied having all those boxes checked off in one project. Especially when artists like Moses Sumney, Leon Bridges, and Black opera singer, Marian Anderson, play throughout the course of the series. 

When asked about the soundtrack selection, Misha Green explained, “Joe Pokaski and I used to talk about how do we pull the slavery portrait off the museum wall and evolve the story beyond, ‘Look at how bad slavery was’? One way was by using more vibrant camera movements; the other was through using modern music. I wanted to build on that in Lovecraft and also integrate ‘found audio’ into the score. For example, in the opening, we use voiceover from [the 1950 film] ‘The Jackie Robinson Story.’ Later we have [Ntozake Shange’s 1975 poem] For Colored Girls and [poet, Gil Scott-Heron’s] Whitey on the Moon. I love the idea of taking our show ‘out of time.’ It’s the past, present, and future. How do we wrap all of that into a unique soundscape? We want the show to be full-sensory, engaging, and have people learn from it without having to learn from it. My favorite learning experiences are immersive; those that make me re-think what I know as opposed to ‘here’s some bad history.’ How can we immerse the viewer even further? I love when I have revelations two weeks after the fact where I’m like, ‘Oh wow, ok.’”

The horror-themed time period piece, Lovecraft Country, it is in a league of its own – providing a world where fear is a theme defined in many ways and in some cases relatable. Is racism scarier than monsters, witches, and ghosts? Check out the series Lovecraft Country August 16th on HBO Max at 9pm and you can decide…

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY is executive produced by Misha Green, who also serves as showrunner, Jordan Peele, and J.J. Abrams.

06Aug/20

Filmmaker Tamara Shogalou’s animation, ANOUSCHKA, is a #BlackGirlMagic XR Experience

SYNOPSIS: ANOUSCHKA is an animated mixed reality (XR) experience inspired by the Black Girl Magic ethos and all Black girls around the world. In this interactive story, we follow Amara, a Black teenager from Amsterdam’s Bijlmermeer (Bijlmer) neighborhood, as she embarks on a magical journey of self-discovery through time and space. Amara must travel back in time and connect with generations of women that preceded her in order to save her grandmother and twin brother from a multi-generational family curse. She discovers her family’s ancestry and magical powers along the way and reconnects with her roots while also learning more about her present.  

The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival’s Virtual Arcade featured a lot of talented women filmmakers, but one Black woman director stood out the most…Tamara Shogalu. The international award-winning director gained attention with her successful hybrid animated documentary and VR game, Another Life. Now she has started production on her new project ANOUSCHKA. A project that promises to be more than a virtual reality medium, it will be a Black Girl Magic experience. Taji Mag was able to catch up with the skilled filmmaker and get more details ahead of her Kickstarter launch.

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): Can you please explain what XR reality is and how effective it is at bringing the project to life? 

Tamara Shogaolu (TS): We define Anouschka as an XR experience that utilizes virtual and sensory technology to promote a more engaging and immersive experience for the user. We do not classify this experience as VR since our goal with this project was to create immersion without the need for VR headsets, consequently allowing for a more sensory-rich, collective adventure. We do not use holograms, but instead, the audience will interact with wall projections, motion sensors, and voice recognition. We developed the Bemmbé Interactive™ platform for new ways of interactivity and engagement in a highly stylized space. We like to describe this form of experience as a story room or a magic box. The most important aspect of the technology is the use of immersive, 3D audio, that will create a tangible yet magical aural landscape. We want users to live the story, rather than just observe it. 

Tamara Shogaolu
Director/Producer/ Founder of Ado Ato Pictures

DDF:  What are some of the short term and long term goals for the project?

TS: First and foremost, one of our main goals is to create content that tells Black stories, about Black girls, written by Black women, and directed by Black women. 

Following four generations of women of color across time and space, this project will serve to increase visibility and representation of women of color in general. The migration and diaspora stories of people of color continue to be unjustly sidelined. ANOUSCHKA celebrates and encourages engagement with this culturally rich heritage while bringing the positive message of Black Girl Magic to the forefront. 

As well, we are telling this story through our Bemmbé Interactive™ platform.

The Bemmbé Interactive™ platform harnesses the power of multi-sensory technology to create powerful and immersive experiences. In Bemmbé Interactive™, bulky gadgets are discarded for the story to take center stage. The audience will experience the story in the room while wearing headphones. The technology also allows for custom audiovisual interactions, with projected visuals through infrared motion tracking and 3D spatial audio. By allowing full story immersion, the platform grants audiences the power to collaboratively explore, interact with, and participate in the narrative and deeply bond with the characters of the world of Anouschka or of other stories. 

Since the beginning of time, humans have been fascinated by the magical power of narratives and storytelling. Exploring the endless possibilities of the imaginary has always been of special interest to us. This passion for storytelling drove us to create Bemmbé Interactive™—an audio-driven story room platform that uses multi-sensory technology to create powerful and immersive experiences. 

ANOUSCHKA will utilize the Bemmbé Interactive™ platform to allow its users to live the story and its world without the gadgets traditionally required by VR technology. However, the platform can be adapted for different narratives, providing unique and meaningful experiences. It is also scalable and flexible, allowing for different audience sizes and the use of different physical spaces.  

Amara, a Black teenager from Amsterdam’s Bijlmermeer (Bijlmer) neighborhood

Since I was a child, I have been yearning and dreaming to see and create a story like ANOUSCHKA, a story about a smart young Black girl raised in a world of magical Black women like those in my world. I am even more thrilled that I get the opportunity to make a story that is written by talented Black women, produced by Black women and directed by a Black woman. “ – Tamara Shogaolu

DDF: Are there any Black female directors in animation who inspire you? 

TS: Currently, and heartbreakingly, there are no Black female directors in animation. But on this note:

Years ago, as a student in film school, I was told by a writing professor that a studio would never greenlight a film about a little Black girl. The professor asked me to change my script to incorporate white leads or else I would fail the class. I was forced to write a story that wasn’t mine and swallow a pill that said, “stories about people like me don’t matter.” This experience lit a fire in me. I refused to believe that stories about Black girls didn’t matter and made it my mission to dedicate my life and career to sharing stories of and lifting the voices of marginalized people and communities around the world.

As I grew professionally and expanded into working with new and immersive technology like virtual reality and augmented reality, I saw many of these same tropes being used to shape the new medium.  Until today, there has been no major studio animated feature film directed by a Black woman and there continues to be a glass ceiling and barriers to entry for Black women in tech, among many other fields. As a Black and Latinx woman working at the intersection of film, animation, and technology, I want to believe that I can contribute to shattering those ceilings by allowing Black girls like me to see themselves and their magic come to life while re-imagining how technology can help us tell stories.

Since I was a child I have been yearning and dreaming to see and create a story like ANOUSCHKA, a story about a smart young Black girl raised in a world of magical Black women like those in my world. I am even more thrilled that I get the opportunity to make a story that is written by talented Black women, produced by Black women and directed by a Black woman. I hope that you will join us in bringing ANOUSCHKA to life so that there is a space and a place for stories like ours.

Tamara is collaborating with spoken word artist Sandy Bosmans and playwright Elle Vanderburg. With all these Black women coming together and the rest of the Ados Pictures crew, Anouschka will be another award-winning project that may propel Black female filmmakers in animation to new heights! Check out the Kickstarter and join in the Black Girl Magic animation experience. 

ADO ATO Pictures is an award-winning media studio based in Amsterdam and Los Angeles. Following an ambition to produce the unexpected, their international team approaches creation with a pioneering spirit, always pushing to compose the most diverse and engaging experiences for audiences who crave fresh, boundary-pushing, and meaningful storytelling. 

Taji Mag Vol 24 Curves & Serves

Taji Vol24: Curves & Serves

Release Sep 7 2020 | Vol24 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Curves & Serves! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @ruby_glam (Hair by @hairdoctor_locs, Photo by @PascalChikezie, Wardrobe and Accessories by @udiahgebi and @householdofjewellery1). Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, organic holistic health detoxes, teas, and supplements from Earth’s Cabinet LLC; our Community Spotlight on Budda by Yvee body butters; our highlighted Hair Feature by Angela Plummer; “Solo Travel: The Adult Gap Year with Stephanie Perry of Vaycarious.com” by dCarrie; “Resolution: Does the Earth Need Surgery?” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “#BlackLoveConvo: Alexis Chikaeze Chats about her Character in Miss Juneteenth” by Dapper Dr. Feel; “Education in the New World Order” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 24 contributed photo story, “Curves & Serves;” Fitness Highlight; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Mac & Cheese; “Black Honey Toys for All of Your Erotic Needs”; “Forq You Up is Adding Some Flavor to the Spice Game;” Featured Art Piece; Comic Appreciation with “Okemus” by T.J. Sterling; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 24

Taji Mag is the epitome of ‘Cultural Drip’ – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery to new levels of Black Excellence. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

25Jul/20
old guard

Old Guard Was a Great Film but Would Be Better as a Series

old guard
THE OLD GUARD (2020) – (L to R) Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker, Marwan Kenzari as Joe, Charlize Theron as Andy, Luca Marinelli as Nicky, Kiki Layne as Nile. NETFLIX ©2020

Synopsis: Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die has fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (KiKi Layne), the newest soldier, to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Greg Rucka and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (LOVE & BASKETBALL, BEYOND THE LIGHTS), THE OLD GUARD is a gritty, grounded, action-packed story that shows living forever is harder than it looks. 

First off, I want to say that I was excited to see the film, Old Guard, was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. If her name sounds familiar it’s because she helmed the classic film, Love and Basketball, one of my favorite films. I also saw the trailer featuring budding actress KiKi Layne and the talented Chiwetel Ejiofor as the co-stars, thinking “Oh, Netflix might have a nice action film on their hands?” As I read more about the comic-based film, I knew I had to see if I would recommend it or tell my friends to pass on it. 

What Worked? * Spoiler Alert *

The opening action scene with the immortal protagonists was awesome, one of the best fight scenes I have seen in a Netflix film. I mean it was crazy how the crew revived a la wolverine style and beat the living mess out of the special ops unit sent to “kill” them. Charlize Theron has done some decent action scenes in previous films, but Gina Prince-Bythewood had her looking like she could be Neo from the Matrix. 

Nile, Kiki Layne’s character, was also well developed. Seeing her character struggle to accept her newly developed immortality and adjust to killing was interesting and made the character more compelling. If I spontaneously became immortal and had to leave my life behind, it would definitely cause some inner turmoil. Especially knowing that I would have to watch people around me die and kill people for the rest of my life, that would be crazy! 

The plot twist involving Booker and Copley was one of the best parts. Their hope was to utilize the immortality as a means to find cures for diseases and ailments. I found this twist to be something that would cross my mind if immortality existed. Working in healthcare and experiencing the loss of loved ones due to aliments is rough so if we help people live longer through science, why not try to use the immortals DNA to help the medical world? The only problem, which is explored in the film, would be the greed and possible monopoly involved. I was truly irked by Booker and Copley for their betrayal but I could understand their perspectives. 

THE OLD GUARD – CHIWETEL EJIOFOR as COPLEY in THE OLD GUARD. Cr. AMY SPINKS/NETFLIX © 2020

“It’s such a universal story and it’s certainly been a theme in my work. But also inherent in my work is the normalcy of women being warriors. I love to reframe what it means to be a female, and I feel that movies can absolutely change the narrative and the conversation. Courage has no gender. Badass has no gender. It just is.” – Gina Prince-Bythewood.

Why It Would Be Better As A Series? 

The time travel element could be explored more and there are so many stories that could be told without giving away too much of how the heroes possessed immortality. I really felt act two of the film was a bit slow and had the interesting storytelling of the soldier who was left behind. I can imagine how great these stories could be explored in a series, like Highlander, you could span the centuries following each of our heroes’ origins. I understand Netflix is doing a sequel but I think they could pull off a series that would be just as interesting and would draw an excellent fan base. 

THE OLD GUARD (2020) – KIKI LAYNE as NILE. Photo Credit: AIMEE SPINKS/NETFLIX ©2020

I would love to see Nile’s life before she becomes one of the immortals, I would love to see Andy’s travel through time as a badass fighter and I would love to see the how each character dealt with the relationships they had (and lost). There was so much in the film that would be interesting to see in a series and director Gina Prince-Bythewood could bless the audience with more of her talents. 

In the end, Old Guard had some great action, strong plot points and the fight scenes were on point. I just felt, going into the third act of the film, Old Guard would’ve been better as a tv series. There was a whole world to explore, so many great stories to tell, and the film did an awesome job of covering it all, but a series would do the franchise more justice. I still enjoyed watching Gina Prince Bythewood put together a dope action film and can’t wait to see the sequel. Check out Old Guard now on Netflix.

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood 

Screenplay by Greg Rucka 

Based on the Graphic Novel Series by Greg Rucka and Illustrated by Leandro Fernández

Starring: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo, with Matthias Schoenaerts, and Chiwetel Ejiofor

19Jun/20

Alexis Chikaeze Chats About Her Character in Miss Juneteenth

Synopsis: Built like a bird, Turquoise Jones is a single mom who holds down a household, a rebellious teenager, and pretty much everything that goes down at Wayman’s BBQ & Lounge. Turquoise is also a bona fide beauty queen—she was once crowned Miss Juneteenth, a title commemorating the day slavery was abolished in Texas. Life didn’t turn out as beautifully as the title promised, but Turquoise, determined to right her wrongs, is cultivating her daughter, Kai, to become Miss Juneteenth, even if Kai wants something else.

Miss Juneteenth is a compelling film that debuts on VOD just in time for Juneteenth, the most celebrated commemoration marking the end of slavery. The film stars Nicole Beharie (42, Sleepy Hollow), Kendrick Sampson (Insecure), and newcomer Alexis Chikaeze. Alexis is not only an up-and-coming actress, she is also an activist against racial injustice. The soon to be HBCU student took time from her busy schedule to talk to Taji Mag about her new film Miss Juneteenth. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What does Juneteenth mean to you and why is it important? 

Alexis Chikaeze (AC): It is about the end of slavery, it’s about our freedom to speak about what is right. Back in the day, we weren’t able to, but now we can speak up for change. 

FYI: Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Also known as Emancipation Day and Black Independence Day. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX, and announced the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation was dated January 1, 1863, however, many slave owners continued to hold their slaves captive after the announcement. In turn, Juneteenth became a symbolic date representing African American freedom.

Alexis Chikaeze

DDF: Was this your first film?

AC: This is my first big role ever and my first audition ever. It’s surreal, a week after I signed with my agent, I got the audition. 

DDF: How much of the Kai character was relatable to you? 

AC: Honestly, we are just about the same. It made embodying the character a little easier. Kai is outgoing, she’s headstrong, she is willing to do just about anything to make sure that she can do what she loves. Kai loves her mother and I feel she was set on showing her mother that dancing was her passion. She is really trying to convince her mother just as I had to convince my parents that I wanted to pursue acting. My parents are Nigerian immigrants and the preference that was given career-wise was Doctor or Engineer. Venturing out into other professions is not really something to consider. When I first started, they were skeptical. They were questioning if acting would secure my future. It’s similar to how Kai’s mother wants the best for her. 

“Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.” – Maya Angelou

DDF: What was it like working with Nicole Beharie and Channing Godfrey Peoples?

AC: Both of them are very humble individuals. It was a wonderful experience working with Nicole, she’s kind-hearted and high spirited. She was so happy to help me and, even before shooting, we would do some exercises to make sure we were both ready mentally and physically. Anytime I felt like I needed help or had to ask Nicole a question, she was more than happy to assist me in any way she could. As for Channing, she allowed me to put into the character what I thought would fit the character and use my own perspective. During the times I was frustrated and hard on myself she reassured me and gave me words of encouragement. 

Nicole Beharie

DDF: What do you think people will take away from the film?

AC: I really hope that people take the time to learn about Black History, the Black community, who we are as Black people, and how rich our culture is. I think more people, myself included, are taking time to learn more about Black history because we don’t learn enough in this educational system.

Miss Juneteenth is a must-watch that I found to be similar to Mommy Dearest but better and more relatable. So much so, that after the film I had to call my mother to tell her “I love you and thank you for your sacrifices.” With Nicole Beharie’s ability to pull the audience in through her character’s obstacles and Alexis’ charm, this is a film many should enjoy on Juneteenth. 

Directed and written by  Channing Godfrey Peoples 

Starring Nicole Beharie, Kendrick Sampson, and Alexis Chikaeze

09Jun/20

Tribeca Selection “Tangled Roots” Documents Attica Scott’s Fight Against Hair Discrimination

Kentucky House of Representative for the 41st district

Tangled Roots follows Attica Scott, the only black woman in the Kentucky state legislature, as she fights to dismantle a system of discrimination against black people penalized for something seemingly innocuous – their hair.

The lost lives of those like Breonna Taylor due to police brutality have been more than enough to encourage protests around the world. There have been many activists, such as Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott, who have been fighting on the frontlines against discrimination and injustice long before most recent events. 

Tribeca Film Festival selection and Queen Latifah produced documentary, Tangled Roots, follows Representative Scott in her fight for House Bill 33. House Bill 33 would ban the discrimination of hairstyles associated with African Americans and Kentucky is one of the last states to pass and not have an active bill against hair discrimination. Support from many around the world, activists, and filmmakers like Matthew Cherry (director of the Oscar-winning short film, Hair Love), have influenced states across the country to pass bills that ban hair discrimination. Tangled Roots shows the importance of this bill and the future of minority representation in legislation. Representative Scott was able to take time from her activism and participation for protesting in memory of Breonna Taylor for an interview with Taji Mag. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): How did you become involved in the film? 

Attica Scott (AS): I was contacted by the documentarian because she has seen my daughter’s issue of hair discrimination at her school and was interested in the bill I had filed against hair discrimination. 

DDF: What are the latest House Bill 33 updates, I can only imagine COVID-19 having some impact on things? 

AS: It’s interesting we find ourselves with COVID-19, the protesting, and uprising against discrimination. It’s a reminder for me how important it is that I work on legislation that is about us being able to show up as our whole selves and not have to fear discrimination.

DDF: What do you think it is going to take for people to realize this needs to be enforced? 

AS: We need to have people share their stories more. While Sam Knowles (director of Tangled Roots) was here during the shoot, I was able to get some people to share their stories with her. We’ve got to have more of that because it is part of how we make it real for people. It’s sad to say but we still, as Black people with our natural hair, are almost always justifying our existence and our humanity. We also need more people to understand that injustice is injustice, we have to have people that want a different world. 

As a legislator, I am going to support a bill I think has nothing to do with me because it affects the people that I serve and represent. I need more of my white colleagues to do that. I want them to know legislation shouldn’t be about you, it’s about making things better for the people of the Commonwealth. 

DDF: What reaction do you expect people to have once people see the film? 

AS: I am hopeful that people around the world will see how important it is to tell the story of advocacy for colored policy in southern states. I don’t imagine people around the country not seeing Kentucky as a place for human rights and social activism. I am glad to lift up that story for people right here in the Commonwealth. I am hopeful people get inspired and energized to help the passage of this bill during the next legislation. I am also hopeful our governor will see how important this is and make it a priority to support bills like this.

We’ve been talking about the impact of COVID-19 on Black people around country and support for Breonna Taylor and her family, it shows that white people and white people in power can no longer ignore us and think it is ok.

DDF: How have you been active during the protesting and police brutality cases? 

AS: Three years ago, my second year as representative. I had actually sponsored a bill related to independent investigations of police shootings and I will continue to file the bill. I will continue to be a champion of police accountability. One of the attorney’s who has been working on Breonna Taylor’s case and Kenneth Walker’s (Breonna’s boyfriend) case, is the same person that brought the bill to my attention because he was working on a case involving a young man named Darnel Wicker who was shot and killed by police. 

I have been currently sharing information about the Breonna Taylor case via social media because I have people who go to my page for information that they may not get otherwise. I’ve also been working with our legislation research commission on a suite of bills to address things like “No Knock” warrants across the Commonwealth and repealing Stand your ground laws. 

I also think it’s important to show up, to have my body in places where it’s needed, and be in the community where my people are in pain.  

DDF:  What is your advice to Black people during these times of the protest?

AS: I want Black people to know that you are beautiful, your skin is beautiful. What we are seeing right now comes from a deep place of love. People are in pain, people are hurting because they love. Keep leading with that love, keep showing up, keep resisting, and keep making white people uncomfortable because it is only in those places of discomfort that white people move. They do what they are supposed to do when they are in elected positions to make a difference in our lives so we don’t have to keep doing stuff like this time after time. 

Tangled Roots is a well organized short film that shows the struggle of minority support from the Kentucky government. With the increased support of Black Lives Matter, Attica Scott will hopefully have the support she needs to pass House Bill 33 and other bills to help improve the lives of many Black people. 

Tangled Roots

Directed by Samantha Knowles

Starring Attica Scott and Ashanti Scott

Tangled Roots is a QUEEN COLLECTIVE Film

The Queen Collective – a program developed in partnership with Queen Latifah, Procter & Gamble, and Tribeca Studios – aims to accelerate gender and racial equality behind the camera by opening doors through mentoring, production support, and creating distribution opportunities for content by the next generation of multicultural women directors.