"Happy Birthday Philando Castile"
“Happy Birthday Philando Castile”

In memory of Philando Castile, who was tragically killed by law enforcement in St. Paul, Minnesota on July 6, 2016, a poignant new short film titled, “Happy Birthday Philando Castile” has been released online. The release date commemorates the day Philando would have turned 33.

A collaborative effort of Even/Odd Films, Blackout for Human Rights, and The Center for Black Male Achievement, “Happy Birthday Philando Castile” was filmed ten days after his death, and features conversations with some of his closest family and friends. The heartfelt film by filmmakers Mohammad Gorjestani (Director), Malcolm Pullinger (Producer) and Ephraim Walker (Executive Producer and a Co-Founding Member of Blackout for Human Rights), the short film is the second installment of a proposed series called “The Happy Birthday Project,” created by Gorjestani, Pullinger and Walker and is a succession of short, intimate portraits of police violence victims’ close family and friends on their first would-be birthday after their deaths.

Andrew Coles of The Mission Entertainment also serves as Executive Producer, with sponsorship support coming from the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA).

Inspired by the short “Happy Birthday Oscar Grant”, which premiered last year at the annual community celebration event hosted by Grant’s mother, Reverend Wanda Johnson, “The Happy Birthday Project” goes beyond mainstream media coverage to provide an exclusive, intimate look at the impact, loss, and grief of these events. It takes viewers along on an emotional journey as loved ones remember, celebrate, and try to come to terms with the tragedies that have captured the attention of the nation and world.

“What often goes uncovered in cases of state sponsored human rights violations is how valuable and important each victim is to their family. ‘Happy Birthday Philando Castile’ is a piece celebrating the life of this young man who was killed unnecessarily. For just a few short moments, we’re given a glimpse into how his loved ones process their grief and loss, while being reminded that Philando’s story is one of many,” said acclaimed filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who is also a Co-Founding Member of Blackout for Human Rights,

Additional installments of the series are forthcoming, including one on Mario Woods, a 26-year-old Black man who was murdered by San Francisco law enforcement officers in December 2015.

“The purpose of these videos is to honor the victims and elevate the voices and stories of the families, friends and community members directly impacted in ways often ignored by the mainstream media,” said Rashid Shabazz, Vice President of Communications for CBMA. “The unfortunate reality is, were our communities not experiencing such violence and blatant abuses of power by law enforcement, these kinds of videos wouldn’t have to exist. However, CBMA feels it is essential that the stories of the victims and all those who suffer from systemic violence get told in an accurate light, one that humanizes them and challenges the often very negative narratives and images that inundate our news and media – particularly about Black men and boys and Black women and girls.”

“When tragedies like Philando Castile occur, the reflex is to broadcast and focus the lens on the hysteria, anger, and the shock felt by the families, friends and community,” said Gorjestani. “But when it comes to the underlying substance, which is the deep and quiet pain and grief, which only can appear after some time has passed, we move on to next headline. In many ways, this series is meant to help build more humanity in a context that we all as human beings can relate to. Through the idea of ‘birthday,’ we hope we can create common ground built on empathy, and to illuminate a universal truth that human loss is something that is rooted in profound grief and changes lives forever.”

Watch “Happy Birthday Philando Castile” in full below: