Monday, May 12, 2008

My Movie Debut!

I can't believe it was over a year ago that I agreed to be an extra in Melvin Van Peebles' latest movie. Well, it's true and the movie was shown at the Tribeca film festival in April. Of course I went to the screening and lo and behold, there I was, on the screen, sitting at the bar in Frank's Lounge, making my movie debut! To find out more about the movie, read on! The following is from an article written by yours truly that ran in last week's Caribbean Life Newspaper (May 7, 2008 issue).


By Kerika Fields

Melvin Van Peebles, the maverick filmmaker who made his indelible mark on the film scene over 30 years ago with his innovative movie “ Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song”, recently premiered his latest work of creative genius at New York City’s own Tribeca Film Festival. The film’s title is a testament to the filmmakers unique outlook on life: “Confessions of an Ex Doofus Itchy Footed Mutha”, is a coming of age adventure about a man who searches the world for paradise and happiness only to realize he already had it in the form of his true love, Rita, who he abandoned in Harlem. The film showcases Mr. Van Peebles' master storytelling skills and manages to keep viewers emotionally engaged, close to tears, and rolling from laughter from one moment to the next. The film was screened all around the city at various venues throughout the festival, but the screening at the Director’s Guild was the most important because it was followed by a question and answer session between Melvin Van Peebles and producer Warrington Hudlin, a film legend in his own right. The conversation was presented by ishares, as a part of the festival’s “Behind the Screen’s” series, which touts “The end of the film is the beginning of the conversation”. And indeed, after the screening at the Director’s Guild the director answered questions from the full to capacity audience, many who were eager to explore the impetus behind Mr. Van Peebles’ latest movie.
When asked why he chose to debut the film at the Tribeca Festival as opposed to the many others—Cannes, Sundance--- the eighty-something year old filmmaker who currently resides in NY stated: “Well, I’m lazy.” But then he got serious and let the audience know that it was Robert DeNiro and his production partner Jane Rosenthal who, in 1995, funded the script for the movie Panther about the controversial Black Panther party, when no one else would touch it. So his affinity for the festival’s founder is warranted. During the question and answer session Mr. Van Peebles also revealed that the movie was made on a shoestring budget and expressed his gratitude to the many locals who volunteered their time and talent to make the movie happen. Shot in and around Brooklyn last summer by cutting edge cinematographer John Threat, the filmmaker utilized familiar Brooklyn hot spots like Franks Lounge and Emmanuel Baptist Church to tell his story. He also used the talents of local Brooklynites Eric Blackwell, Leslie Harris, myself, and many others who appeared as extras in the film and gave it an authentic feel. But my small association with the project is by no means why I am telling you about it here and now. It’s not everyday that you get to experience a movie made the old-school way—with vision, humor, integrity, creativity, and a positive message about Black love. C’mon! Essentially, it’s great to know that the visionary and often controversial filmmaker is still out there, doing his thing on his own terms, and making movies about Black people that reveal beautiful nuances about our culture, rituals, beliefs and lifestyles.

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