Ladies! (oh and gents too…)

7 03 2014

I was scrolling through Facebook and found this photo…brought back a lot of memories for me, growing up with these guys being the household names of black entertainment.

Then it dawned on me. When have we seen a picture like this of women? Has there ever been a time when a group of black women have been as powerful and recognizable as these guys and have taken a picture together? Somebody correct me if I’m wrong!

Today we have Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay. Somebody get them in a room together for a picture! We need more women, though! Ladies, let’s stand up, unite, and create!





Black Women an Anomaly at #Sundance?

12 02 2013

As i continue to reflect on my Sundance experience, the other morning I started thinking about all the films I saw and the wonderful Q&As that followed. Then I realized something–there was little to no representation of black women filmmakers at Sundance this year. This seemed to be the year for black men–Ryan Coogler’s wonderful film “Fruitvale”, Andrew Dosunmu’s visually stunning “Mother of George”, George Tillman’s “Ineviteable Defeat of Mister and Pete”–but I don’t recall seeing a black female lead any Q&As, or even black female crew members, with the exception of Frances Bodomo, the director of the short film “Boneshaker”.

Don’t worry, this is not a post about the lack of diversity at Sundance. Last year Ava Duvernay did her thing and won Sundance’s Best Director award for her film “Middle of Nowhere.” And I couldn’t be happier for the black men that represented this year. They all did great work. But sitting at a panel on women filmmakers, as I listened the stats on the lack of female directors in Hollywood in general, I couldn’t help but wonder if I even stand a chance as a black female filmmaker?

How is the voice of color being grafted into the conversation women are having on what it looks like to see images of ourselves on the screen? A woman in the audience tried to engage that conversation in the room, to which another woman in the audience basically answered in a tone that said “There was a panel for black people last week so stfu”. Well, so much for female empowerment.

My point today is simply to encourage my sister filmmakers to keep writing and making movies. My Twitter timeline stays full of feeds from black men who are doing web series and making films. Bravo for them. But we have a voice too, and let’s make sure it’s not silenced.





#60Movies – Day 6: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

9 01 2013

Synopsis:A woman interviews several different men in order to get answers for her dissertation as to why men act the way they do, particularly in relationships.

My Takeaway:A very interesting film. I wanted to see it when it was in theaters but I missed it. I didn’t know at the time that it was directed by John Krasinski (The Office, Promised Land), but finding that out made it more endearing, as did the casting of some of my other favorites including Will Arnett and Rashida Jones. This film was very clever and artful in its style and technique. It felt very “NY” in its polished grit and almost Woody Allen-esque in its sensibility.

As far as themes, this film is a reminder that men have a story too. As much as we as women want to hate them when they do silly and/or bad things, they usually do have feelings and are human beings too. It confirmed the theme that I tried to explore in my second film, “Sophisticated Romance”, that men desire relationships too.

Some of the stories of the men in this film can be disturbing, and the fact that this was adapted from a book become painfully evident in some of the poetic monologues. Overall, I give it 3 1/2 stars.





Writing the Vision…Part 1

13 01 2012

Tonight I’m reminded of just how important it is to write things down. I started this blog back in 2005 and tonight I’ve been going back through the archives and reading old blogs. I’m so humbled and encouraged by the fact that many of the hopes, dreams and frustrations that I believe God has put inside me have been consistent from way back when. It’s very reassuring to know that I didn’t make these dreams up, and that they didn’t just spring up yesterday. I’d like to share a couple of old posts with you all…starting with one of the first ones that I published in December 2005…

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Those Who Can, Do, Those Who Are Called–Teach – December 30, 2005

I was talking with a friend of mine the other night about the value of education. He wondered if it really had any value when there are so many accounts of people who forsook school and achieved phenomenal success regardless (i.e. P. Diddy, Denzel Washington, Oprah, to name a few). I’ve heard this question asked a million times, I’ve even asked myself the same question at times. It’s such a valid and important question that deserves an answer. So now that I’m at a point in life where I’m actually considering going BACK to school, sometimes I can’t help but to wonder, “Why am I getting ready to subject myself to more work and more debt just so that I can have more letters added to my name?”

And then I talked to another friend of mine and she said something to me that I thought was pretty profound…

She said that education and learning is a calling. And then it became so clear to me. I’ve always told people that I never had a dream of what I wanted to be when I grew up as a child. But that’s not true. As a kid I was always reading, always writing, always creating plays and talent shows. And whenever my friends and I would play make-believe, so many times we would play school and somehow I always played the role of the teacher. This past year, I had my first opportunity to teach film and video production full-time at a local college and it has been quite a learning experience for me. One of the best things I love about the job is that it puts me back into the environment of learning again. And not just learning but now being able to share what I’ve learned with others. That’s why I want to go back to school. In a world of changing technologies and changing ideologies, there’s always more to learn.

I always say that college is not for everybody. Maybe that’s why there are some people who are not so good at it. Or maybe it’s not that they’re not good at it, maybe they just don’t want it. They have a different path to follow in life. As for me, I love learning. And I value education. When I look at the long tradition of scholars all around the world, it fascinates me. Watching a documentary or a television program and they say “Dr. So and So” Professor at So and So Fancy University—there’s something to be said for that. That’s a calling for people to study and research for years and years on any given topic. And what a privilege it is. Scholars have the potential to change our thinking just as much as entertainers we see on TV. It’s the scholars who really dive in and study the trends. I want to be one of those scholars.

I read an article last night in American Cinematographer about a famous Director of Photography who would shoot films and then teach part-time. The crew started calling him the “Professor on the Set.” Now he’s a Professor Emeritus at UCLA. As a filmmaker preparing to go back to school, I pray that soon I will share that name. I’ve got to find a way to fuse my faith with my art (film) and with my calling in education.

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Back in 2005, I remember talking about going back to school and going to seminary as though it were going to happen the following week. Obviously, I didn’t make it back to school in ’05. But thank God I held on to that dream, and the desire for it hasn’t gone away. Please pray for me as I have finally applied to go back to school and I am waiting to hear the results. God is good.





Rest, Reflect and Remember

24 09 2011

Last Sunday in church my pastor preached a message about how busyness can prevent us from having depth in our lives, in our relationships with others, and ultimately our relationship with God. He gave us some tips for building solitude into our lives so that we can slow down from the hustle and bustle of life and take the time to “smell the roses.” One of those tips was to take a regular sabbath, and use that as a time to “Rest from work, reflect on God’s wonderful creation, and remember the salvation you have in Christ.”

Well, today I gave that theory a whirl as I set this day aside to spend with God. And what a day it was. My plan was to get on the bus and just go wherever it led me. But when I woke up this morning, it was quite dreary and raining, so I started to just stay home. But the little voice inside said that I should just grab my umbrella and go for it anyway. I’m so glad I listened to that voice!

When I got to the bus stop, I realized that I left my phone at the house. At first I panicked, but then I remembered that one of the other tips that my pastor gave was to turn off electricity and disconnect from “gadgets.” It took everything within me to not turn around and walk all the back to the house and get my phone, but thank God I survived the urgings and decided to get on the bus and head downtown with no technology on my person. I have to admit it felt very weird at first. But I soon adjusted and transported myself back to the days (not so long ago) before I even owned a cell phone.

At any rate, I ended up passing by the National Museum for Women in the Arts. I was intrigued so I got off the bus and went inside. It was so inspiring to see the works of so many great women artists! It inspired me and made me thankful to God for art, and for artists whom He has given a mind to create masterpieces. God created some interesting folks when he created us artists–lol. I count it a joy and a privilege to be able to be part of what He’s up to in this way.  My favorite part of the museum was the Guerilla Girls exhibit, which showcased the group’s protest against the discrimination of all  NYC and DC art galleries who failed to include the artwork of women and women of color. It was very intriguing and informative.

I had lunch at Cosi, where I was able to do a lot of writing in my journal, reflecting and praying. Truly a blessed time. I hopped back on the bus and headed back up to my side of town. I wasn’t quite ready to go back home yet so I went to Starbucks and spent some more time thinking, writing, reflecting, praying and reading. It was awesome.

All in all, my sabbath was a great time and I pray that I can make this a habit in the weeks to come. And it really did help not having a cell phone to distract me from my own thoughts and prevent me from hearing God. So if you haven’t done had a sabbath yet, I’d advise you to do so!

The perfect ending to the night was that Khalilah and I ended up going to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Seasons 52. Well, they messed up our order and ended up comping our entire meal so we got to eat for free! Praise God!

Well, on that note, I’m going to bed. One of the other tips was to Go to bed on time and wake up on time. I’ve been better at this this week, so we’ll see what happens, hopefully it’ll continue…For the complete list of tips to build solitude into your life, click here.





What Is “Christian” Art Anyway?

24 07 2011

The past couple of days I’ve been reading two books that have really been blessing me. One is called “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller. It’s kind of like a contemporary version of Mere Christianity, for those of you who are familiar with C. S. Lewis. The other one is called “Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts” by Steve Turner. This book not only tackles the sticky relationship that Christians have with the arts, but it is hitting my struggles with my artistic expression right on the head. I’ve been chewing on this quote from the book all day:

A key issue in the strained relationship between Christianity and the arts is the perceived division between secular and sacred. Christians have found it hard to appreciate art that deals with daily living, especially if it doesn’t supply an obviously spiritual conclusion.

This quote so perfectly describes my struggle with my art and with the church. Turner argues that while some Christian artists are called to minister within the church walls (i.e. worship leaders, Christian musicians), others are called to infiltrate culture, to be excellent in their craft, out in the world but not of it. Well what if you’re an artist who is called to create for those within the church walls, but the art that you create doesn’t fit the mold of what is considered “Christian” art, for the very reason that Turner mentions in the quote above?

I recently joined a LinkedIn group page for Christian filmmakers. The past couple months the topic of discussion has been responses to one particular poster’s outrage over a “Christian” film script that had a curse word in it. I know of several Christians who are filmmakers who don’t want to label or identify themselves as Christian filmmakers, mainly because such films are often poorly made. As for me, I don’t so much mind the label of Christian filmmaker, after all, I am Christian and I am a filmmaker. I accept the title as much as I do the label of Black filmmaker or Female filmmaker. All of these labels actually do make up my voice as a filmmaker. But reading the comments on the LinkedIn page helped me see a broader issue in Christendom in that, for some reason, Christians love to hide in the ideals of what our life here on earth should be, rather than explore and wrestle with the way it really is.

Not that there’s inherently anything wrong with the former. I just think there’s a problem with Christians becoming so self-righteous that we cannot see both sides of the coin. Am I wrong for sharing a true story of how a guy once called me a skinny b*tch and I had to fight back my own urges for revenge amidst a need to forgive? And as much as we like to believe that all Christian singles are perfect little angels who are patiently waiting until marriage to have sex, am I wrong for telling my story and the story of countless other women whose flesh got the best of them and did not wait, only to still see God’s glory in the end?

Throughout my years of being a filmmaker, I constantly seek Christian venues and festivals to showcase my work. But what is disturbing to me is that almost all of these festivals have guidelines that prohibit just about everything that deals with real human emotion. In other words, many festivals won’t say it, but they expect family friendly films. (One exception to this has been the HolyWood Film Festival, in which my film, Defining Moments, screened in April and won the Courageous Filmmaker Award).

None of the films I’ve made have ever been family friendly. They’re adult films that deal with the harsh realities that come with living life as a believer. They are films that hopefully make you think. Films that make you deal with the reality that even as Christians we are broken human beings who often do the wrong thing. But unfortunately, all too often that’s not the story that Christians want to hear. Yet ultimately it’s the very story that has brought us to the cross and that keeps us there.

I guess the folks on the LinkedIn page have the right to not want curse words to be in a “Christian” film. So then maybe that screenwriter/filmmaker should just stop calling their film Christian. So where does that leave me? Should I drop the very title that defines part of who I am? Or sell out my voice and give the people what they want–wholesome, unrealistic films that are “safe for the whole family?”

Things to ponder…





Things I Learned This Weekend…

29 06 2011

I know. It’s been a minute since I last blogged, but once again I’ve been in a season where my life has seemed to be on auto-pilot. I’ve been to Haiti, to LA, to NJ, to PA, to NY and back to DC–all in a matter of one month and boy, is my body feeling it. Not to mention that my sister and nephew were in town ever since  last Thursday and being a DC tour guide has my legs still burning from all the walking we did. I can’t believe that after all these years, no one has started a FREE shuttle service to get you from one end of the National Mall to the other? Aw well, I guess we all needed the exercise.

At any rate, I’ve learned many lessons this past month during my travels, but tonight I’m reflecting on the two valuable things I discovered this weekend while hanging out with my sister…

1) I’ve been missing great opportunities to hang out with my extended family. My immediate family tends to be very close. But I don’t do as great a job of keeping up with my extended family. This past weekend my sister and I connected with my cousin Douglas and his family, who live in Silver Spring. We all hung out at the National Mall on Saturday seeing all the sights, from the Air & Space Museum all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial. It was a long day and we were exhausted, but it reminded me of just how special it is to be around family. It brought to my remembrance that I actually have a number of family members here in the DC area that I still have yet to connect with, even though I’ve been here for a year. This must change…

2) I’ve been missing great opportunities to see the beauty of DC. Nothing makes you appreciate a city more than when you have out-of-town guests who think your city is great. As much as I complain about DC, I had a totally different experience with the city this weekend seeing through the eyes of my sister and my 10 year old nephew. DC is a city that is rich in culture and diversity. The Smithsonian has so many museums–there’s so much to see and do…I fell in love with the American History Museum. I can’t wait to go back there and study some more. By the way–if you haven’t seen it already, you should go see the exhibit For All The World To See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights. It highlighted how the media influenced the Civil Rights Movement for good and for bad. It’s great! I was also very intrigued by the display on birth control pills and how it has affected American life and culture. Very fascinating!

Although I’m still not a fan of this city, I want to make it a point to get out and explore the richness of this town for as long as I’m here, even if it is only another year…