By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
On Friday, June 2nd, Indie Filmmaker Nefertite Nguvu of the Production Company, Hollywood Africans, will partner with Theaster Gates and the Re-Build Foundation for an exclusive screening of award-winning feature film “In The Morning” at Black Cinema House. The debut feature film written and directed by Nguvu, charts the emotional anatomy of the lives, loves, infidelities and enduring friendships of a group of interconnected New Yorkers over the course of one day.
Independently funded and shot in just eight days in Brooklyn, NY, the film delves into the emotional landscape of contemporary Black life in a way rarely seen in modern cinema. “In The Morning” is a sophisticated adult drama, with both humor and intensity reminiscent of early Spike Lee and Woody Allen films, yet marks the arrival of a bold new voice in filmmaking.
“Theaster Gates and the Rebuild Foundation are known the world over for their innovative platforms for art, cultural development and neighborhood transformation now thriving in Chicago,” says Nefertite Nguvu. “I’m honored to present ‘In The Morning’ at the Black Cinema House in partnership with this incredible organization. One of my greatest missions is to use my voice as an artist to help change our communities for the better. Above all else, I want to tell stories that help expand the lens through which we see ourselves.”
“In The Morning” is a great ensemble piece that reminds me of other films, but no comparison is needed. It’s refreshing to see a glimpse into Black lives and loves that presents the characters in well-rounded situations.
Harper, Ravi, Fez, Bly and Amara gather for a going-away brunch for Harper, who is moving to Brazil. They indulge each other with conversations around dating, love, marriage and security. On the other hand, Malik and Cadence are ending a years-long affair, since Cadence finally realizes that involvement with a married man leads to nowhere. And finally, Zuri and Leal discuss their fractured relationship, considering that Zuri has just learned that she is pregnant.
Indeed the morning seems to be relished by all concerned.
I simply adore Emayatzy Corinealdi, who plays Cadence. I’ve seen her in a few films that are mentioned below. I had a chance to interview the director Nefertite Nguvu who discussed the project.
She explained her reason to offer funding through Kickstarter. “Quite simply it’s a story that I was committed to telling, and did not want to wait on permission from any gatekeepers. I feel oftentimes in the Hollywood system we’re not worthy of a film unless it’s about us being extraordinarily heroic in some way or detailing some tragic act of violence, or race-based adversity,” Nguvu said. “There aren’t enough stories about just our everyday lives, about intimacy, about our feelings, essentially our humanity. This was a film I felt I was making for my community, so I went to them for the ‘green light.’ That’s the beauty of crowdfunding: audiences get to fund that which they want to see.”
The message of the film can be viewed in many ways, she added. “‘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.”
As it relates to Emayatzy Corinealdi and the name of her character, which is Cadence, Nguvu added. “Emayatzy Corinealdi is a lovely actress on the rise who’s been in some wonderful films. I try to choose character names that speak to who I feel the character is and what they are trying to convey emotionally. I love the name Cadence and it felt right for her.”
An intimate scene between Zuri and Leal was followed by discord, which makes Zuri feel more vulnerable. This, and other scenes showing vulnerability, was intended, the director says. “The entire film explores themes of vulnerability and intimacy. This scene magnifies that. Writing about intimacy and vulnerability were very important to me. I don’t think there are enough films about Black life that explore those themes fully. Often times films about our lives are about how we are responding to external trauma—which is real and true and ever present—but our need/capacity to love and be loved is ever present as well. I wanted to explore our intimate spaces: what it means to be vulnerable, which is something simple human and true.”
A well rounded film “In The Morning” shows all characters in transition, as opposed to some running from something, as I assumed.
“I don’t see our characters as running from something. I see them all as being in transition. Our film takes a look at their lives when they are in the process of some serious self-discovery,” Nguvu concluded. “They are essentially deciding what they need to give up in order to actualize who they want to become. Zuri, Harper, Cadence and the rest of our characters, like most of us in the real world, are imperfect, works in progress. Like us, they are all trying to understand themselves and the people they love a little better.”
Brooklyn, New York, in which the movie was filmed is just lovely, but it is also a community that could be considered in transition, as well. Nguvu spoke to that sentiment. “Visually Brooklyn is simply a beautiful back drop, but for the narrative, it’s also interesting because it is a community with a certain amount of friction right now, between what existed before and what’s happening currently, as it gentrifies at a lightning speed. So for our characters Brooklyn is in many ways a familiar old lover, with whom their relationship is also transitioning.”
Photographed by award-winning cinematographer Arthur Jafa (“Daughters Of The Dust” and “Crooklyn”), and color timed by Malik Sayeed (“Belly”), the film’s ensemble cast consists of emerging talent: Jacky Ido (star of Shonda Rhimes’ “The Catch”) Emayatzy Corinealdi (“Addicted,” “Middle of Nowhere” and Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic “Miles Ahead”), Numa Perrier (“The Couple”), Kim Hill (soul singer, original lead singer of The Black Eyed Peas), De’adre Aziza (VH1’s “The Breaks,” Tony-nominated Broadway actor “Passing Strange”) Hoji Fortuna (“Viva Riva”) JoNell Kennedy (“Me And You And Everyone We Know”) and making debuts are actors Alzo Slade and CJ Lindsey.
The screening tour kicked off in New York City, but in Chicago, folks can see it on Friday, June 2, at Black Cinema House, followed by a conversation and Q&A with Nefertite Nguvu. Black Cinema House is located at 6760 S. Stony Island Ave. For more information, visit www.inthemorning-thefilm.com.