Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Nefertite Nguvu

The “In the Morning” Interview
with Kam Williams


In Harmony with Nefertite!


Nefertite Nguvu is a graduate of New York City's School for the Visual Arts, where she majored in film. Here, she talks about her feature-length writing and directorial debut, In the Morning, an ensemble drama co-starring Emayatzy Corinealdi, Jacky Ido and De'Adre Aziza.

The film will be showing in Philadelphia on Friday, May 26th at 7 pm at the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, located at 3401 Filbert Street. Following the screening, there will be a conversation between Nefertite and multimedia visual artist Sosena Solomon and questions from the audience.

To find out about future screenings of In the Morning elsewhere around the country, visit: http://inthemorning-thefilm.com/


Kam Williams: Hi Nefertite, thanks for the interview.
Nefertite Nguvu: It’s my pleasure, Kam. Thank you for taking the time.

KW: What inspired you to write In the Morning?
NN: I was very inspired by the women in my life. I wanted to make a film that reflected and honored the women I know. There are so many overlooked narratives when it comes to black women. In The Morning is my love letter to women: beautiful, smart, elegant, vulnerable, sensitive, complex black women who don’t often get to see themselves in movies.

KW: How would describe the film in 25 words or less?
NN: Our film is about something we’ve all wrestled with, this terrible and beautiful animal: love. It explores romantic love, but it’s ultimately about the power of self-love.

KW: How did you go about assembling your cast?
NN: Our cast came together pretty organically. We were working with a small budget, so there was no casting director. I reached out to members of my filmmaking community for recommendations: Emayatzy Corinealdi, JoNell Kennedy and Jacky Ido came to me that way. I also chose to work with some artists I’ve known for awhile whose work I loved, like De’Adre Aziza, Kim Hill, Numa Perrier and C.J. Lindsey. I feel very lucky to have this lovely and talented ensemble cast.

KW: I interviewed Emayatzy for Roots. She was nominated for an NAACP Image Award this year for her performance in the miniseries. Why did you pick her to play Cadence in your film?
NN: It’s great to see her continue to shine. I chose her for many reasons. Emayatzy brings a lot to our film. She is quite beautiful and brings a delicate balance of hubris and humanity that draws us into the complex emotional world of her character, Cadence. She’s wonderful!

KW: What message do you want people to take away from the film?
NN: In The Morning explores the lives of beautiful but imperfect people navigating their way through life and love challenges, without placing judgments on anyone. We are all human and therefore all flawed. Our message is really about deepening connection, intimacy and empathy. More than anything else, I want our audience to see true and deep reflections of themselves.

KW: You wrote, directed and produced In the Morning. What was it like having to juggle all those responsibilities?
NN: As a first time feature filmmaker, it was daunting. But I was incredibly determined to get this film made. So, I threw myself wholeheartedly into each of these responsibilities and worked very hard. It was not easy to manage it all. Luckily, I had a lot of support. I’m so proud of the film we made.

KW: How long did it take to make the movie?
NN: Though it’s been a five-year journey from script to screen and now to wider distribution, we shot the film in Brooklyn in just eight days.

KW: What's your next project?
NN: I’ve got two short narrative projects I’m working on now that I’m very excited about. One I’m in post-production on entitled, “Myself When I am Real,” and another I’ll be shooting this summer in collaboration with AT&T as part of their "Hello Lab" program.

KW: What's your dream project?
NN: I’d love to adapt one of James Baldwin’s novels. That would be a dream project, for sure.

KW: AALBC.com founder Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?
NN: The last book I read was filmmaker Kathleen Collins’ recently published book of short stories entitled, “Whatever Happened To Interracial Love.”  


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
NN: Frank Ocean’s cover of "At Your Best." I’m kind of obsessed with it!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTCwpNQ5_7A

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
NN: My earliest childhood memory is probably walking while holding the hands of my father and my sister.

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
NN: Yes, my mother was a very spiritual person and she made that a very grounding component of my upbringing.

KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?
NN: I am very fortunate in that I felt loved unconditionally by my entire family.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
NN: I don’t often have a lot of time to cook, usually a quick tofu and veggie stir-fry is my go to!

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?
NN: To stay the course.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
NN: I see a lot of the faces of the women in my family and my father’s eyes.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
NN: I’d wish for a just world.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
NN: Not that I can think of… other than, work-wise, I’d love for someone to ask if they could finance my dream project!

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to direct?
NN: There are so many these days, which I think has been a great way to introduce some films to a new audience. It’s daunting to think about taking on a classic, but one I’ve always loved that I think would be interesting to redo is Elevator To The Gallows.

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
NN: The key quality that stands out to me for many is grit.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
NN: Ha! The usual necessities, and a ton of receipts from a shoot this past weekend.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Nefertite, and best of luck with all your endeavors.
NN: Thanks so much, Kam.

To see a trailer for In the Morning, visit: https://vimeo.com/213676676

Rising Star

 
Book Review by Kam Williams



Rising Star
The Making of Barack Obama
by David J. Garrow
William Morrow
Hardcover, $45.00
1472 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-264183-0


Barack Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention instantly catapulted him into the national spotlight and led to his election four years later as America's first African-American president. In this penetrating biography, David J. Garrow delivers an epic work about the life of Barack Obama, creating a rich tapestry of a life little understood, until now...
In Rising Star, Garrow has created a vivid portrait that reveals not only the people and forces that shaped the future president but also the ways in which he used those influences to serve his larger aspirations. This is a gripping read about a young man born into uncommon family circumstances, whose faith in his own talents came face-to-face with fantastic ambitions and a desire to do good in the world."
-- Excerpted from the Bookjacket

 


Barack Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention instantly catapulted him into the national spotlight and led to his election four years later as America's first African-American president. In this penetrating biography, David J. Garrow delivers an epic work about the life of Barack Obama, creating a rich tapestry of a life little understood, until now...
In Rising Star, Garrow has created a vivid portrait that reveals not only the people and forces that shaped the future president but also the ways in which he used those influences to serve his larger aspirations. This is a gripping read about a young man born into uncommon family circumstances, whose faith in his own talents came face-to-face with fantastic ambitions and a desire to do good in the world."
-- Excerpted from the Bookjacket

For some reason, presidential biographies by Pulitzer Prize-winners tend to be rather lengthy. Consider David McCullough's on John Adams (752 pages) and Harry Truman (1120 pages), Doris Kearns Goodwin's on Abe Lincoln (1,341 pages) and FDR (760 pages), and Robert Caro's continuing series on LBJ (3,180 pages and counting).

Now, another Pulitzer Prize-winner, David J. Garrow, has published an epic opus of 1,472 pages on the life of Barack Obama, focusing on the years prior to the presidency. And it's a safe bet that Garrow just might eventually write a sequel about about POTUS 44's time in the White House, too. 
 
Any Obama fan is likely to find this in-depth portrait fascinating, as it is filled with plenty of little-known factoids and anecdotes about him. For example, it chronicles a childhood spent mostly on Hawaii where he was basically raised by his maternal grandparents in the absence of both his mother and father.

Garrow also documents "Barry's" use of marijuana in high school and of cocaine in college, when he started preferring "Barack." And the author reveals the identity of the woman Obama lived with for a couple of years during his stint in Chicago as a grassroots organizer.

We also learn that Obama not only worked with a lot of Bible-thumping sisters during his initial stint in the Windy City, but that he was already planning to become president of the United States way back then. And there's the blow-by-blow of his strained relationship with Genevieve Cook, the rudderless white woman he dated during his tenure in New York City. 
 
Everything you always wanted to know about Barack Obama but were afraid to ask, and then some!

To order a copy of Rising Star, visit: 

 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Top Ten DVD List for May 23, 2017

by Kam Williams

This Week’s DVD Releases

Get Out


Shake the Dust



My Life as a Zucchini

All Governments Lie

The Enless Summer: Director's Special Edition


Injecting Aluminum

Gauguin: Maker of Myth

Unlocking the Cage

Shaquille O'Neal All-Star Comedy Jam: Live from Sin City

Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris




Honorable Mention

On Any Sunday: Re-Mastered Director's Special Edition

The Future of Work and Death

Welcome to the Loud House: Season 1, Volume 1

Outsiders: Season Two

Peel: The Peru Project

Duck Dynasty: The Final Season

The Great Wall

Rock Dog

Max 2: White House Hero


Masterpiece: Dark Angel

Smithsonian: Air Warriors [Season 2]

David Holt's State of Music: Season 2

Special Blood

Outsiders: Season 2

Peg + Cat Save the World

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening May 26, 2017

 

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams


OPENING THIS WEEK

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Baywatch (R for crude humor, graphic sexuality, frontal nudity and pervasive profanity) Screen adaptation of the long-running TV series (1989-2001) as an unlikely-buddies action comedy about a veteran lifeguard (Dwayne Johnson) and a rebellious recruit (Zac Efron) forced to put aside their differences to take on a drug ring ruining the area. With Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach, and featuring cameos by original cast members David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (PG-13 for violence and suggestive content) Johnny Depp is back as Captain Jack Sparrow for a swashbuckling adventure which finds the Black Pearl pursued by a ghost ship with a zombie crew under the command of an old nemesis (Javier Bardem). With Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush and Kaya Scodelario.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

96 Souls (Unrated) Sci-fi thriller about a research scientist who, after a lab accident, discovers he's able to read people's minds. With Sid Veda, Paul Statman and Toyin Moses.

Black Butterfly (R for profanity) Suspense thriller revolving around a reclusive writer (Antonio Banderas) who, against his better judgment, invites a shady drifter (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) to crash in his cabin during a serial killer's reign of terror around the mountainous region. Supporting cast includes Piper Perabo, Abel Ferrara and Nicholas Aaron.

Buena Vista Social Club: Adios (PG for mature themes, brief suggestive material and pervasive smoking) Concert documentary and sequel to the 2000 Oscar-nominee follows the final tour of the five surviving members of the band as they reflect on their careers and their contributions to Cuba's musical culture. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)

Cruel and Unusual (Unrated) Miscarriage of justice documentary chronicling the 42 years straight spent in solitary confinement by Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, Black Panthers targeted and convicted of murder without a shred of evidence besides the testimony of bribed and blind witnesses.

Drone (Unrated) Revenge thriller about an American drone pilot (Sean Bean) conducting covert bombing missions from the comfort of his hometown who suddenly finds himself accused of killing the innocent family of a grieving Pakistani businessman. (Patrick Sabongui). With Mary McCormack, Joel David Moore and Sharon Taylor.

Long Strange Trip (R for profanity, graphic nudity and pervasive drug use) Warts-and-all rockumentary affording a revealing look at the life and times of the Grateful Dead. Featuring never before seen video footage of Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, Robert Hunter, Bill Kreutzmann and Pigpen.

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan (Unrated) Prestige profile following the prima ballerina as she prepares to perform a modern dance piece while contemplating the end of her three-decade career with the New York City Ballet.

The Women's Balcony (Unrated) Tale of female empowerment, set in Jerusalem, revolving around the women mmebers of an Orthodox congregation's attempt to derail their new rabbi's (Avraham Aviv Alush) plan to implement traditional gender roles at the synagogue. With Oma Banai, Yafit Asulin and Sharon Elimelech. (In Hebrew with subtitles)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Everything, Everything


 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Prince Charming Courts Sickly Next-Door Neighbor in Bittersweet Coming-of-Age Tale

It's Maddy Whittier's (Amandla Stenburg) 18th birthday, but she won't be celebrating the occasion at a party or restaurant. In fact, she won't be leaving the house or even having friends over anytime soon. 
 
That's because she has SCID, a rare genetic disorder that basically makes her allergic to everything. Consequently, she's been stuck inside a hermetically-sealed house since being diagnosed with the disease at the age of 3, shortly after her father and brother's untimely deaths in a terrible car crash.

Lucky for Maddy, her mom, Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), is a physician who could afford to raise her in a luxurious, if sterile, environment free of the germs that could compromise her immune system in an instant. Although Maddy grew up curious about the outside world, she's gotten used to exploring it over the internet with the help of online courses and a support group for kids with her sickness. 
 
Then, Maddy receives the best birthday gift she could ever imagine when new neighbors move in right next-door. For, one member of the family, Olly (Nick Robinson), is a boy about her own age. And all it takes is a glance through the glass window for the handsome hunk to fall head-over-heels in love with her. 
 
The ardent admirer uses sign language to ask Maddy for her phone number, before typing "U R beautiful" in his very first text. Olly's zeal only increases upon learning about her crippling affliction, and he asks if there's any way he could be decontaminated to come over for a visit.

But that's against doctor's orders, especially mom's, which forces the lovebirds to admire each other from afar. Hormones raging, Maddy is suddenly discontent with her sheltered existence in an antiseptic gilded cage. 
 
Will she recklessly abandon the protective bubble to rush into the arms of a perfect Prince Charming she barely knows? That is the burning question at the heart of Everything, Everything, a bittersweet, bildungsroman based on the young adult novel by Nicola Yoon. The picture was directed by Stella Meghie who successfully adapted the book into a syrupy soap opera certain to satisfy fans of the source material. 
 
A tender enough tearjerker to dehydrate even this crabby curmudgeon!



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and brief sensuality
Running time: 96 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures


To see a trailer for Everything, Everything, visit:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42KNwQ6u42U



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Amandla Stenberg

The “Everything, Everything” Interview
with Kam Williams  

Stunning Stenberg!

Amandla Stenberg first gained recognition for her role as Rue in The Hunger Games, alongside Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson. After the success of that film, Amandla earned the 2012 Teen Choice Award with Jennifer for Best Film Chemistry. She was also nominated for NAACP Image and Black Reel Awards for that performance.

Amandla made her big screen debut in the breakout role of young Cataleya Restrepo in Colombiana. In January 2016, she appeared in As You Are which premiered at Sundance. The independent film won the Special Jury Prize at that year's festival.

She recently finished shooting Where Hands Touch, a romantic drama set in the Forties, directed by Amma Asante. The story focuses on the relationship between a mixed-race German girl and an SS officer in Berlin.

She is currently filming The Darkest Minds, based on the best-selling series of young adult novels by Alexandra Bracken. The dystopian trilogy takes place in the wake of a mysterious plague which killed most of America’s youth population. Amandla stars as Ruby, a teenager with telekinetic powers who joins a group of kids on the run from the government.

She is also attached to The Hate U Give, adapted from Angela Thomas' debut novel of the same name, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The story revolves around a suburban, prep school student coping with the fallout from witnessing a police officer shoot her unarmed best friend.

Besides acting, Amandla has been globally lauded for her crusade to improve society via thoughtful conversation, using social media as a platform to spread social awareness and knowledge. She has shared personal essays on such topics as cultural appropriation, inter-sectional feminism, biracial identity and beauty standards.

Wise beyond her years, at 16 Amandla was named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential Teens as well as the Ms. Foundation for Women's Feminist Celebrity of the Year. Furthermore, Dazed Magazine proclaimed her one of the most incendiary voices of her generation in its Autumn 2015 cover story.

In February 2016, Amandla was presented the Young, Gifted & Black Award at the annual Black Girls Rock! ceremony televised on BET. Later that year, she became one of the faces of Stella McCartney’s new fragrance, "POP."

A versatile talent, Amandla also plays violin and sings in the folk-rock duo Honeywater, along with Zander Hawley. Here, she talks about her new movie, Everything, Everything, where she co-stars opposite Nick Robinson.


Kam Williams: Hi Amandla, thanks for the interview.
Amandla Stenberg: Thank you for having me.

KW: You have a unique name. How did you come by it?
AS: It means "power" in Zulu. That's pretty much the main reason why my mom picked it for me. It was also the rallying cry of the South African freedom movement. To them, it meant "Power to the people!" Amandla's the title of a Miles Davis album, too.


KW: Have you seen the movie Amandla about the pivotal role music played in inspiring the people of South Africa to summon up the courage to topple the repressive, Apartheid regime?
AS: The documentary, right? Yes, I have. My mom put a poster from the film up on my wall when I was little.

KW: What interested you in Everything, Everything?
AS: First of all, that they were considering casting someone like me as Maddy grabbed my attention because most movie romances aren't very diverse. Usually, adaptations of young adult romance novels feature white leads. So, when they reached out to me with the script, I was struck by the fact that it was based on a book written by a black woman [Nicola Yoon] who specifically created a biracial protagonist. That was something I hadn't seen before. It felt fresh to me that they were making a fairly corporate movie with a black female as the lead that would be widely marketed and distributed And I also thought it was important when I considered how many people would get to see this girl with natural hair carry the film.

KW: Do you feel under any pressure for this film to succeed, so that this sort of colorblind casting continues?
AS: I don't feel any pressure. I'm confident the film will do well. And whether or not it succeeds isn't necessarily dependent on me. That's not my responsibility. But I do feel proud to be a part of it, regardless. Besides, I don't really think of a film's success in monetary terms but by how it moves people. And I can already tell that black teenage girls are really excited to see themselves in a movie like this.

KW: Had you read the novel, before learning about this project?
AS: No, I hadn't read the book when I got the script. But as soon as I learned what it was about, I checked it out.



KW: What was it like working with a black, female director in Stella Meghie?
AS: It was really cool. Very special. I think we had a kind of unspoken, and sometimes spoken, mutual understanding of what it meant for us to be creating in that large, corporate environment together. It was sort of like, "We tricked them. Don't they realize what we're making?" We joked around that we were scamming them with our diverse content.

KW: And how was it working opposite your co-star, Nick Robinson?
AS: He's a fantastic guy. Very grounded and real. We were both kind of relieved when we first met each other that were on the same page not only in terms of acting but as people.

KW: How would you describe the movie's message?
AS: I think the movie's fantastical, not really based in reality. It's more of a fable or a large metaphor about breaking free of limitations that you place on yourself or that others may place on you. And it's about conquering your fears and not letting anything get in the way of living your life more fully.

KW: And what was it like working with Anika Noni Rose, who played your mother?
AS: Anika's fantastic as an actress and as an individual. She has so much conviction, heart and elegance. She's such a a cool person and a strong lady. Yeah.

KW: Your breakout role came as Rue in The Hunger Games. How did you like making that movie?
AS: I was just 12 years-old, so it was a while ago. [Chuckles] But I had a helluva time!



KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
AS: I don't know. I'm not huge on remakes, unless they do it in a new way. I think of Everything, Everything not as a remake, but as a fresh take on something we've seen before, and I like that.

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
AS: Looking at trees while my mom pushed me around the park in a stroller as a baby.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
AS: I see a lot of different things. [Giggles] I see a person who is trying to make some change in the world.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
AS: I like cooking with my mom at Thanksgiving and Christmastime because we make turkey, and mac and cheese, yams, collard greens and all the other black staples, pretty much.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?
AS: A favorite movie monster? I think the monsters in Ghostbusters are pretty iconic.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would? And please answer the question.
AS: I don't think so. I've been asked a lot of questions, and they've all been pretty fantastic.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
AS: I don't know that I have just one, exclusively. I look at a lot of different designers. Right now, I'm really feeling this brand called Self Portrait. 
 
KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
AS: [LOL] In my wallet, you'd find my high school ID, my credit card, no cash, because I'm so terrible at ever retrieving it, a picture of the dog I had as a kid, and a tiny greeting card I found in Denmark when I visited there with my dad.

KW: Thanks so much for the time, Amandla. I expect big things from you, and i look forward to interviewing you again down the line. .
AS: `Thank you, Kam. Appreciate it.

To see a trailer for Everything, Everything, visit:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42KNwQ6u42U