Check out some of our interviews from the red carpet at the 2017 IFP Gotham Awards presented by Fiji Water, The New York Times, Landmark Vineyards and Lindt Chocolate at Cipriani Wall Street on Monday evening.
Yance Ford’s Strong Island won Best Documentary.
What does it means to be here at the Gotham Film Awards?
Yance Ford: Being at the Gothams is huge. Obviously, as a New Yorker born and bred, having made a film that takes place in New York but that has national indications is just an incredible honor to be among the films that are nominated tonight. But also, it’s a great platform for us to raise awareness about the issue of Reasonable Fear and its tenuous legitimacy as an excuse for homicide.
Is this a very personal movie for you?
Yance Ford: It’s an intimate film. It happened within my family but if you consider that 11,195 black men were murdered in 1992, it’s impossible to call this film personal. There are so many people on the streets of this city tonight who could have been my brother, who could be my brother tomorrow, families who could be destroyed in an instant. It’s within the household, which is the best way to tell any story because people relate to characters, they relate to actual people. But, it’s not just my family. It’s any family, it’s so many families. That’s one of the reasons why we’re excited to be here and so honored by this nomination is because we think that the film has really spoken to people on a level that says hey, wait a minute, something is wrong here. If I can kill someone simply because I am afraid and there’s no standard for reason behind that fear, there’s something very deeply wrong here and we need to exam that fear. Well the lack of interrogation of fear in our criminal justice system is the ultimate undermining of due process. It robs the dead of their due process and it gives some people a pass to commit murder.
Whose Streets? was nominated for best documentary. It was directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis.
So how exciting is it for you to be at the Gotham Awards?
Damon: It’s very exciting. This is like the first big red carpet thing I think either one of us has done so, I’m happy to be here.
For people who haven’t seen the film tell us a little about it.
Sabaah: Whose Streets? is a story of the Ferguson uprising but it really takes the political to it, intimate, and humane perspective. It’s a story about family, it’s a story about love, it’s a story about children. So, we wanted to cut through the noise and frame the racial justice movement through a human lens.
How did you first decide to make the film? What was that moment for you guys?
Damon: I think it’s different times for both of us but I’m from St. Louis so I was there in the mist of things when it happened and I really wanted to make a movie after I saw how the media portrayed us and made us look a certain way. So, I started looking for different ways. I wasn’t filming while it was going on, I was in the mix. And so I was looking for footage and stuff and I think that’s one of the reasons I started talking to Sabaah, but I really just wanted to tell the story for my home and for the people from there. A very small story, a micro story and see how macro it is. You know?
What do you hope audiences take away from this film?
Sabaah: I hope they really can access the emotional truth beneath it. I hope they can see themselves in all of the people in the film and understand what it feels like to be abandoned honestly by your own government. I hope people understand the level of militarization that we are seeing and how uncommon and unsafe it is. I hope that most of all people understand that their children are going to inherit this world so we can’t sit back and let whatever happens, happen. We have to take a responsibility and take a role and make it a better place.
Damon: Yeah, one more thing, and I hope people start believing black people the first time when they say something about what’s wrong in the world. Yeah, hopefully we won’t need another movie, hopefully people believe them the first time basically.
What was the collaborative process between you two?
Sabaah: So I got there about a month after Mike Brown was killed and initially I wanted to do a public health study because I was pre-med. So I had these pamphlets typed up and it just wasn’t the time or the place to do that kind of research. So, my DP and I who is a friend from college started filming and we wanted to find a collaborator because we felt as people from New York, it wasn’t right for us to just come in and try to own this story. Everyone we talked to mentioned Damon’s name as a really well respected artist. So, we came together. The first conversation we had we kind of hashed out what our roles were going to be and we could see from the first conversation that we were going to be able to work through anything.
Dear White People was nominated for Breakthrough Series – Long Form. We spoke with the show’s producer Stephanie Allain.
What does it mean to be honored by Gotham?
Stephanie Allain: Oh it’s fantastic. It just means that the show is connecting and we’re nominated for breakthrough series so that’s really exciting. Justin Simien is a breakthrough artist and I’m just thrilled to be here.
When Justin pitched you the idea of turning the film into a show, what were those conversations like?
Stephanie Allain: Well, we made the movie and we always knew it was an ensemble piece, it felt like we could go much deeper with the characters. So, he always was thinking about the TV show so as soon as it came out Lionsate called us up, brought us in, we talked about it. Netflix was always the number one spot, they loved it so here we are, second season!
Second season, what can viewers expect?
Stephanie Allain: Oh it’s going to be a banging second season. It’s going to be right on point, you’ll learn more about the characters, more about the characters’ backstories, more about who’s loving on who and what’s going on. It will be fun and deep as it is.
Any other projects coming up?
Stephanie Allain: I’m just finishing up Juanita, which is another Netflix Original film. Starring Alfre Woodard, Clark Johnson directing is fantastic. We’re just about to do the final mix. We got a show that’s very exciting. Some good news coming up about that. It’s an episodic show and about to start two more movies.
Your son Wade Allain-Marcus stars on Insecure. How proud are you?
Stephanie Allain: He is. And Snowfall. He plays the Colombian drug lord in Snowfall. It’s so exciting, he loves it. He’s going to get me jobs now, so I’m excited.