Award-winning music producer Justin L. Rhodes releases new film “It’s A Wonderful Plight”!
“It’s A Wonderful Plight” takes viewers through a musical history lesson as you follow a young white man, Scott, who learns the difference between appreciating Black culture and using his privilege to support Black and marginalized people in general. After calling out his roommate for holding antiquated prejudices towards African-Americans, Scott gets called out for being equally as detached from the “Plight” of the people behind the Hip-Hop culture he loves so dearly. Enter fictional musician and “Woke Spirit” Josef the Hotep played by Rhodes, who appears in a hallucination to usher him from appropriation to allyship.
Directed, edited, sound designed, and scored by Justin L. Rhodes, the film takes viewers through a thorough review of the plight of African-Americans; from slavery to the assassination of great voices like Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King Jr., and even Bob Marley, Tupac, and Biggie. Going beyond history, the film also utilizes some amazing reenactments to address more recent acts of police brutality like the death of Botham Jean in Dallas and the true price of gentrification. “My mission is to tell my story and the story of my people in a unique, creative, forward-thinking, and empowering way,” said Justin.
We got a chance to speak with Justin about the film, check it out below!
The Knockturnal: In 2016, you jumped into filmmaking for the first time. How has your process and style of filmmaking evolved since then?
Justin L. Rhodes: Initially our style was that we didn’t really have a style. It was very guerilla. We’d have light planning but everything on set would just be done on the fly. It taught us to work with what we had and not rely on perfection because that will never come. Since then we have meshed our guerilla-style with a more traditional Hollywood style. We plan our shots and we try to map things out, but we leave room for the unknown because that’s typically where the magic happens. You never know what you can come with on the fly and what can spark an idea. We plan as a “guide” but we are not married to it.
The Knockturnal: What were some of the challenges being the director, editor, sound designer, and film scorer for the film?
Justin L. Rhodes: Having to separate yourself from each process. The perk of doing all of those things is that you know how each of them work together. So as the director, you can say “We need to do the take in this manner because it will make it an easier edit”. The problem comes when you’re editing and you can’t focus on the editing alone because you’re anxious to score the film. Or you can’t focus on scoring the film because you’re anxious to see how it will look once the color correction is done. Once post-production starts you have to shut off your thought process on the other jobs and say “right now I’m an editor and my brain will function as such”, or “right now I’m a film scorer and my brain will function as such”. It’s tough but doing it this way will get the most out of each step.
The Knockturnal: Can you talk about crafting the story and depicting the explanations and consequences of historical and modern events in an authentic way?
Justin L. Rhodes: The stories were easy to depict in a modern and authentic way because I am currently living them and I have lived them my entire life. Some of the songs I created like Melanin and MakeItTakeIt I dubbed as “Sesame Street or SchoolHouse Rock for Adults”. In the same manner that programming helped us with our ABC’s and 123’s, The storyline and the music in “It’s A Wonderful Plight” (IAWP) taught us the ABC’s and 123’s of Systemic oppression for ANYONE to comprehend.
The Knockturnal: Music as a central aspect of the film, can you talk about producing the score for the film? How did the creation of the music, visuals, and story affect one another?
Justin L. Rhodes: The Bulk of the music was created before the script was written. That way I could write my script around the subject matter and the emotion from the songs that were crafted. The remaining score was just feelings and moods akin to what they would do in horror films… because racism can be some scary shit. The songs served as the climax and theme and I was able to interweave the storyline to get to each destination. The visuals, the shots, the acting… everything played off of the music.
The Knockturnal: “It’s A Wonderful Plight” was screened last year and won the monthly edition of the Oniros Film Awards and was a 2020 selection at the San Francisco Black Film Festival. How did you see the film impact audiences and how did their reactions affect you?
Justin L. Rhodes: These film festivals were during Covid so unfortunately, we missed out on the crowd reactions. We did have an outdoor screening and two very successful drive-in movie screenings. The energy that we felt when hundreds of cars honked and honked and honked (the equivalent of a traditional standing ovation) after the film was over was the best and most redeeming feeling I’ve ever felt as an artist. This proof of concept gave us the validation we needed to KNOW that the world would also love this film.
The Knockturnal: What’s coming next for you?
Justin L. Rhodes: Working on songs with some of your favorite artists as well as new music for myself. It’s a Wonderful Plight 2 is already in development as well as many other movie projects. Finishing up my second book. I’m just taking the momentum that IAWP has us on and doubling down on it for the future. I’ve really found my artistic sweet spot and I’m going to continue to water my plants – “Larry June”.
“It’s A Wonderful Plight” will be available to purchase or rent starting on June 15th on Amazon Prime Video, check it out!