Tensions are high. People are dying. Politicians are speaking with vitriol and reckless abandon, tapping into a sensibility that is real and exists in large numbers. The events in Ferguson, Missouri sparked by the murder of Michael Brown have provided a jolt to the system. These protests represent a challenge of the status quo and the youth are fearless and organized. The world is changing drastically. Visual devices provide an imprint on our minds. These tools are powerful. This is why what Lonnie Edwards has sewn together must be examined closely. His film A Ferguson Story, was recently screened at the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago. It is revolutionary in its approach and content. We spoke to Edwards and discussed this important film.
Tell us about yourself.
Oh man, where do I start? I’ll give an abbreviated version. So, about two years ago, almost to the day, I decided to quit a great job that I worked at for nearly 10 years and follow my heart to become a filmmaker. With no formal training or knowledge of film production whatsoever, I shot my first film in 2013. It was called Parietal Guidance. That film went on to gain notoriety in numerous film festivals and win several awards.
What is it about filmmaking that drew you in?
I’ve always been a huge film and graphic novel nerd my whole life. I would watch films and daydream about being the director of those movies when I was young. That dream turned into me critiquing films as I got older and feeling as though I could create my own work…better or equal to that of what I was watching.
Tell us about A Ferguson Story and what inspired you to do it?
I actually had the opportunity to go to Ferguson for a couple days. It was after all the insanity subsided, which I felt was much better because the people that were down there were the ones that were serious about making a difference. While I was in Ferguson, I got to meet lots of people and one of the things that struck me was how lopsided the whole thing was being portrayed in media… Just hearing the stories of the residents and witnesses… It just made me want to create something that spoke from the people who were actually there.
What is unique about the way this documentary was made?
It’s not a “formal” documentary. As I said earlier I wanted to create something that spoke from the people who were there, so I met with several amateur cinematographers and photographers that had been filming throughout the duration, accumulated thousands of hours of footage and photography and turned that into a 33 minute piece. The film is solely narrated through sound bites and music… It’s also in black and white, I did this because I feel as though nothing has changed in America, shit is still quite fucked up in this country. So 100s of years from now if this film were dug up you couldn’t tell the difference between my film or a civil rights film from the 60s.
How do you want to affect the world with this documentary?
I want to make an impact on the world… A positive impact. Whether that be through education or inciting an emotion that brings about change… Maybe even inspire someone to do something positive. This film shows the amalgamation of society and how tragic events brought the world together. There’s just so much negative media around the subject that I felt if I have an opportunity to change that, then why not? Here’s my contribution to a constant battle we have as citizens versus the government… I’m not in the streets protesting or in the offices lobbying for new laws but this is what I can contribute as an artist.
What are your thoughts on the racial climate in America after creating your film?
Oh man… Well, it’s going to take a whole lot for my outlook to change. I mean, two words, Donald Trump… As a young black man in America I experience an outlandish amount of racism on a daily basis. With that being said, though I did create my film for the people that go thru the shit we go thru… I created this film for the people who don’t understand in hopes that they do. Cus, I don’t need an education on this. I had a masters in being discriminated against by the time I was 8 years old unfortunately… I have to believe it will change, we all have to. I’m going to do my best by creating intelligent content as a black man, by working and speaking with the youth, by continuing to express exactly who I am and let show the discrepancy of what people may think about me. Especially being in this field… Media has pushed prejudice and racism to this point. So as artists we need to put out better content and not feed into the shit that reality TV, shitty films and even shittier music has created.
What is next for you?
I’m currently getting ready to co-produce a short film with a very talented writer/director from UK, Hezatu Jalloh. We begin shooting that in the coming month; the film is called My Achilles Heel. I’m very excited about it, as we are currently in the final weeks of pre-production. I have four separate films that I wrote and will be directing. I begin shooting the first one in February… And, lastly, I’m working on visuals for Jon Content’s album Chasing Grace. He’s an amazing talent… I won’t tell you about this art installation I have in the works… Haha! But yea, you know, just trying to keep busy and literally achieve everything I set my sights on.
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