Tag Archives: #family

26Oct/19

Exclusive: Harriet director, Kasi Lemmons, Discusses Film, Eve’s Bayou, Candy Man

Harriet director Kasi Lemmons and actress Cynthia Erivo (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

This year, director and writer, Kasi Lemmons, will bring one of the most heroic and inspiring Black woman figures to the screen, Harriet Tubman.  The film, Harriet, stars Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr,. and Jonelle Monae. It is a biopic about the life of Harriet Tubman from her first escape to freedom to being the conductor of the Underground Railroad. The film premiere was held on Oct. 22, 2019 in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian African American Musem. Taji Mag was able to speak with the director, Kasi Lemmons, about her creative process and development of the film. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): What was the importance of making this film and will this film impact the future of storytelling from the perspective of Black people? 

Kasi Lemmons ( KL): As filmmakers, we always ask ourselves, what are the great characters? I write from the characters all the time. Harriet Tubman was one of the greatest figures who has lived. So for me, the fact that no feature film has ever been made about Harriet and she is just such an important person for Americans, especially African American women… This hero needs to be brought to the world, a hero to me on the level of Mother Teresa and Gandhi. She’s a real superhero.

In terms of our future as storytellers, the more we can tell compelling stories that people relate to, the better. There are so many women directors right now and there are so many stories to tell, it’s always been a matter of is the industry ready to accept these stories. Now we are in a period where we can have a Black person as the lead and hero in a movie and bring characters like Harriet to the screen.   

(Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

(DDF): What makes this film different from the other films that are about Black slavery? 

(KL): Harriet, to me, has always been a story about freedom. If I were to ask you to tell me the story of Harriet Tubman, you would say that she escaped from slavery and then she went back to liberate others. To me, those were like the verbs, that is the Harriet Tubman story. 

(DDF): What was your reaction when you found out that you were doing this film? 

(KL): My heart started racing, they just kind of sprung it on me and I didn’t have time to think about it, which was good in a way because I went to a meeting and the producer said it in the room. They surprised me because I thought I was just going to a general meeting. I was able to check my pulse to measure my own reaction and, as I am experiencing it, I am thinking, “your heart is really racing, I think you are very interested in this!” 

(DDF): You have mentioned in one of your articles that this feeling of excitement is like falling in love. Can you explain?

(KL): Find a good film to work on is always like falling in love to me. There’s always a process of courtship; you’re getting to be friends and then all a sudden you fall in love. With this film, I was really intrigued by it from the very beginning. The love started in my research; she is an incredible presence in my life. 

Lemmons with her husband Vondie Curtis Hall and son. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

(DDF): What was your approach to creating the premonition scenes that Harriet experienced? 

(KL): I went through a lot of stages with it, then boiled it down to its most simple form, because I felt like they were like flashes of inspiration. They took many different forms, she had dreams, trances, sometimes just flashes of premonitions, and seizures. So I started to think about what seizures felt like and tried to make a shocking type of image. 

(DDF): You did some very creative things to create the premonition scene with the various colors used. How did that come about? 

(KL): When I looked up seizures and really tried to read people’s experiences of what seizures looked like to them, I would find the word monochromatic over and over again. I thought that is what I was trying to make it look like. 

(DDF): “What is a man to with a woman touched by God” is a line in the script that stood out to me. How did you come up with it? 

(KL): It’s interesting, that is a scene that I wrote the night before we shot it. The producers and executive producers at Focus Features, wanted me to try and describe what it felt like to Harriet after her husband re-married. So we imagined a scene with Marie where she would tell her what it felt like to her. I put off writing it because it was a hurdle to me – how do you write what God feels like? Then I started to explore what it would it feel like to Harriet, I wrote it the night before the shoot and they (Cynthia Erivo and Janelle Monáe) did it in two takes. 

Janelle Monáe as Marie Buchanon. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

(DDF): In the film, we see the evolution of the heroic woman icon, how did you go about the character development from Minty to Harriet? 

(KS): There is a huge arc that we felt in her character, she almost becomes different people. From an ordinary woman into this almost mythic side of herself, she names herself and she is apart of that. So we named them, Minty, Harriet, and Moses. Everybody participated in the character development; Me, Cynthia, and costume designer, Paul Tazewell.  We created her and it was a group effort to give you that arc. From Minty and her dress to when she becomes Harriet in her mission costume, it’s a big arc. 

(DDF): What advice would you give to your younger self at the time you made Eve’s Bayou? 

(KL): In some ways, I don’t know if I would give myself any advice. Now, where I am in life, I like the way that things unfolded. Take for instance, after I made Eve’s Bayou, I didn’t know if I was going to make another movie but that was a wonderful thing to think at that moment because I was going for broke. So I put everything into it. I’ve had ups and downs in my career. If I could talk myself through those, I would tell myself that you are going to have ups and downs but if you keep going, you get to travel the world, you’ll meet extraordinary people, you’ll work with some of the most talented people and you’ll have a great time. 

(DDF): You are also doing a CJ Madam Walker series, what brought you to do that project? 

(KL): I have been infatuated with Madam CJ Walker for 20 years. Literally 20 years ago, I was thinking, “You know, it would be dope if we did something about Madam CJ Walker!” So when that came about, I was super excited about being involved in it. Then, Octavia Spencer, she’s perfect for the role. It’s a story that has been interesting for a long time, she is the first self-made Black woman millionaire and you know hair is so special to us black women, we’ve got our own thing. I had a really good time working it. 

Kasi Lemmons on set. (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

(DDF): Do you hope to bring more important black women figures to film or tv? Any ideas? 

(KL): Oh, I am sure I will do more films about important Black women figures. Do I have any in mind…maybe? (laughs) 

(DDF): You were in the horror films Candyman and Silence of the Lambs.  Have you had any input or help in the development of the new Candyman film? 

(KL): I have contributed to Candyman already in that I mentor the director for the film, Nia DaCosta, since her first Sundance film. She’s great!   

(DDF):  Will you make your own horror film?

(KL): There is something that I have in mind but I have to be careful because I am extremely sensitive. I have to protect my energy a lot and be careful of what I bring into my life. When I bring in truth, beauty, and righteousness, it’s a good feeling, so I am afraid and that’s the truth. 

The film Harriet was a great film with a lot of exploration of the characters’ bravery, selflessness, spiritually, and intelligence. It stands out as a story about the perseverance of the human spirit against discrimination. Creatively, it is a departure from the usual ‘slave cry’ moments that have become rhetoric in most of the blockbuster slave themed movies and I am thankful for that. Go see Harriet November 1st. 

Harriet

Directed by: Kasi Lemmons

Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., and Janelle Monae.

 

12Jul/19

Founder, Owner, CEO & Artist: JAE Black

JAE Black hails from Asheboro, North Carolina. He reigns as the Founder, Owner, CEO, and Artist on his independent Label, Illcapone Records LLC.

Best Advice Given
JAE receieved the best advice from his friend of 15 years, Emery. They were hanging out at JAE’s house back during their high school days, making a beat and structuring a song for their rap group at the time, which was called “yung gin.” Emery looks at JAE and says, “yo dog, out of everybody I know in my life and out if everybody in the group, you got it… you’re going to make it… never stop this music thing ’til God allows you to go no further.”  He’s had people share that same enthusiasm ever since that moment, but it was something about that day that made him believe it!

Being able to be diverse in the game is critical and that’s why JAE Black believes that he is both a MC and a Lyricst. Why? He makes great music as an artist and, from a technician’s, stand point he paints pictures out of real life that people can relate to.

Popular Artist most likely to perform with: Drake.

To create this recent album, he was inspired by things that he went through between the release and the few months prior. He experienced a wave of hate, betrayal, jealousy, greed, and even the doubt from loved ones because they couldn’t understand his goals. The Penalty of Leadership is for those individuals who do things out the norm which scare people into only following. It doesn’t bother him to step out of the norm and he doesn’t think it should bother anyone else either; be great no matter who’s against it! The reason for the release date is due to his great grandmother’s birthday. Her passing has given him a focus and drive like he’s never had before.

The Penalty of Leadership dropped on JUNE 9th 2019 on all music platforms.

Where it all started…

His mom dated this guy named Al Luck for four years and, when JAE Black was in 5th grade, Al Luck and his son, Marquese, moved in with JAE and his mom. Marquese and Jae became close like brothers and remain the same to this day. They looped music from the wrestling video game they recieved for N64 and then they recorded it off of a tape recorder.  He had the tape recorder from the Home Alone movie and they would play the beat back from the radio while they rapped over it.

They got to the point where they would take two plastic sticks from toy golf clubs, a couple of empty soda bottles, and other objects to create beats. Marquese would do the drumming and JAE was the MC. It’s funny for JAE  to think about it now but that’s where his love for music began.

JAE Black has written his own music since he was 10 years old and has yet to collaborate with anyone but in the future it could be a possibility. Yet, as he ventures through new levels with his music, he finds that he enjoys the creativity behind each of his songs more and more. He doesn’t have a favorite song but the song that he is most proud of would be: Trust Issues from his recent album.

He’s proud of that song because he took a risk and tried something new. Listen to it and you will understand why. His most memorable performance was when he performed a track in downtown, Greensboro in 2015. A guy in the music industry was given JAE’s music when he came down to visit North Carloina and he liked what he heard. He invited Jae to New York to perform at a music festival called “The Gathering.” It was his first and only experience. In his first song he fumbled and messed up the lyrics so bad that he just went straight to the next song and from that day forward he always told himself to be prepared. Shortly after that, he took a 3 year break because of life. Now his focus and drive are much different.

NEXT STEPS FOR THE FUTURE

The Penalty Of Leadership dropped on June 9th. Some music videos to some joints from it were released but then it’s get back to the studio to work on another project. He has tracks for another project that he is working on but currently JAE is focused on promoting The Penalty Of Leadership and putting more momentum behind the ball.

For Bookings & Music

For all bookings and features reach JAE Black at [email protected]

  • Website: JAEBlack.com
  • Instagram: @_jaeblack
  • Youtube: JAE Black
  • Facebook: OfficialJAEBLACK

Find his music and his newest album on on every platform – including Tidal.

31May/19

Another Dream, a Tribeca VR Immersive, tells a Story that Needs to be Heard and Felt

Another Dream

Tamara Shogaolu and Dapper Dr. Feel aka Felipe Patterson. (Photo by William Baldon)

Love is hard to find in this world, so image finding a bond with someone so deeply that you can’t stand being away from them. Now imagine having to hide that relationship, restricted from fully exploring it in fear that you will be disowned, harmed physically, or killed. So you escape with your partner, leaving behind family friends and a life within a community, to have emotional and relationship freedom. That is the case for the two women in the virtual reality (VR) immersive, Another Dream, by Tamara Shogaolu.

Another Dream started out as a collection of interviews that were collected by Tamara and journalist Nada ElKouny over two years in Egypt. They interviewed many women, ethnic minorities, and people of the LGBTQ community about their experiences.

These stories needed to be heard because their relationships, in the eyes of some people in Egypt, are seen as immoral; having the livelihood and lives of people in the LGBTQ community threaten due to aggressive homophobia.

“After the Revolution, people became very open and started to reimagine what Egypt could be. What stood out to me about the experience was a lot of the queer voices and stories had optimism that things were going to change,” Tamara Shogaolu explained about her interviews.

Another Dream has more themes of discrimination within the project than that of the LGBTQ. When it came to explaining this Tamara stated, “For me, it’s not only about the LGBTQ community in Egypt, it’s also about when the characters come to Europe they face racism. You leave one form of discrimination to another form of discrimination. I think that is a global issue of how we create our own empathy and compassion so that we can all be better humans.” She then added, “With this project, the intersectionality of their identity goes that they are LGBTQ but they are also people of color, and even within the LGBTQ they face discrimination.”

Another DreamTamara mentions that the word refugee is misinterpreted, elaborating, “The word refugee has been highly politicized. If you really think about it, it’s someone that is forced from their home and I think people forget that. It means we don’t want you here and there are people that have whole lives, like the characters in our story. One is an engineer and the other is a medical professional. They have to leave that and start from scratch. They are doing well, back in school re-studying the occupation that they were doing, in another language, while only being there for two years. That’s amazing.”

FYI: There are some cases where authorities in Egypt have stepped in opposition to the LGBTQ community. In this case, eight men were jailed after their gay wedding video went viral showing two men kissing.

The Another Dream VR Experience

Another Dream

Dapper Dr. Feel experiencing the VR immersive Another Dream (Photo by: William Baldon)

Another Dream is a virtual reality immersive that pulls you into a world where two lesbian lovers have their relationship and love tested through many challenges. Two lovers are first introduced to you with their dog while sitting on a couch. As their story begins, the environment changes to match the narration of the two. The colors and visuals evoked emotions that allowed us to sympathize more with the couple telling the story.

The experience is very interactive, having intermissions where I had to use a laser pointer (almost a like a lightsaber from Star Wars, so I was geeked!) to trace positive Arabic words. Upon completion, I moved on to the next part of the story.

Another DreamThe most beautiful scene was that of the city; it’s a mix of colorful hues and sounds of the environment that are highlighted by the dark of night. I found myself floating as if I were on a magic carpet ride from Aladdin when exploring the area. It’s definitely amazing work by the VR and sound team.

During the journey, I got to a part of the story where the two lovers escape to Europe overnight because their love for each other is not accepted and one of them was set to wed in an arranged marriage. At this point, I felt the cold and dark of night, the fear of being captured by those in search of the two or just any random stranger that could harm the women on their search for refuge.

When the characters arrive in Europe, you feel the eyes of judgment and unfamiliarity of them being women of color as characters shop at the local grocery.

Eventually, they become comfortable in the fact that the only thing that matters is their love for one another. By the end of the experience, I felt happy for the two coming to the revelation that they were safe and although they are starting their lives together, they can do it happily together.

FYI: Another Dream is part of an animated transmedia series, Queer in a Time of Forced Migration. The first part of the series began with the first short Half A Life.

Who is Tamara Shogaolu?

Another Dream

Tamara Shogaolu and Dapper Dr. Feel aka Felipe Patterson. (Photo by William Baldon)

Tamara Shogaolu is a talented director/creator/artist from a multifaceted cultural background. While studying economics at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA, she was convinced by a professor to study film after creatively using it in her economics research projects.

From there she earned her MFA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and her previous work, Half-Life, is a short film that has garnered many awards. Not only has her work has been featured all over the world in galleries and festivals, but she also is the creative director for Ado Ato Pictures.

Seeing Through It All

I didn’t know what to expect when I first put on the VR gear but I am glad I went to the experience with an open mind and with no expectation. This experience is a learning tool that may help others understand that love shouldn’t only be celebrated and hindered.

With the work that Tamara and her crew have put into this project, I am happy to say they have achieved the goal of both creativeness, experience, and informing the audience. Hopefully, Another Dream will touch enough people that it will allow people to safely and openly love whomever they want without any hindrance.

05Sep/18

Roses In Words to My Salvation, My Mom

My brother on the left, Aaron. My mother Amanda Smith, middle. Me on the RIght

It may be difficult for some men to be vulnerable, to openly express heartfelt words of appreciation, but I have no shame in doing so. In fact, in this case, it is needed. The appreciation and love I have for my mother far exceed words. She has been the salvation for me since birth and more of a protector of my dreams than I have been myself.

My mother, Amanda Smith, is something of a beautiful phenomenon. Enduring years of racial prejudice as a teenager, putting her life at risk to give birth to my brother, displaying great work ethic, beating breast cancer, and taking care of multiple people while holding a job. The time she spent juggling a hectic work schedule while taking care of my little brother and my niece was inhuman. My brother and niece were in a terrible car crash, they both were in and out of the hospital from injuries yet she put on her cape and pressed on. She showed even more strength becoming the guardian of my niece after my brother passed. The strength she has is comparable to Superman and Samson (from the Bible) combined.

Even when she siphons her strength to others when they need, her endurance seems infinite. I am guilty of this at times because most times she is my salvation. There are times when I try to reciprocate but it never seems to be enough, yet still, she smiles.

When it comes to my goals and dreams, she has been a great supporter, no matter how big they may be. Just recently I have explored the world of writing and had some success. This had prompted me to take a break from medicine and go after a bigger goal – becoming a screenwriter/producer. Some have questioned my decision because the medical field is a more stable job market, but my mother has encouraged me to go forth in my pursuit with no hesitation. I have done so and have been blessed with opportunity after opportunity because of her support.

I value her, she is truly an amazing human being. Any given opportunity, I speak and display genuine love. I thank God every day for the angel my mom has been to me while I have been on this earth. She is royalty, strength, and savior. She is… a queen.

These are my roses in words to my mother.

My mother, Amanda Smith