In her first film called The Love Below, director CHEL$Y O (Chelsea Odufu) elegantly wraps themes of colorism, self-doubt, and alcoholism into a beautifully-shot film that unfolds in a little more than 10 minutes.
“Im sure you’d look at me more often if I were the color that makes you smile. Tell me it’s black, mom…Just pretend that you like me long enough to capture the ultra-violet in my flesh.”
Those are the thoughts of the main character Tiana (played by Thais Francis), whose mother has drawn a color line right in the middle of their home. Tiana’s mother (played by Nora Caroll) belittles her for her browner melanin and spews abusive, degrading insults at her in between gulps of alcohol.
Their tensions have gotten worse ever since Tiana’s older, fair-skinned sister died of an asthma attack when their mother was too deep in her drunken stupor to assist. CHEL$Y O presents a drama that will resonate in your heart as you see a family being pulled apart by false ideals of beauty.
CHEL$Y O is a recent graduate of New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, where she majored in film and television. As a young, up-and-coming filmmaker, she boasts an impressive resume; she now works for Spike Lee and in the past she worked for Vashtie Kola, The Source magazine, MTV, Nickelodeon, and The Rachael Ray Show. Under her own production company, O Chel$y Productions, she produced and directed The Love Below. She is also working on a new film called Ori Inu: In Search of Self with her older brother Emann Odufu.
Although CHEL$Y O has a very strong relationship with her mother and brother, Ori Inu is also a film that deals with family strife. According to the director’s statement:
“This film tackles the complex relationship within a family between three strong female characters with different views on spirituality. In exploring her roots in Candomble with its female orishas/goddesses and its matriarchal priestesses, [the main character] Natalia is also looking to redefine her own views of what it means to be a woman and the roles which women can play in society. This contrasts with her mother’s more conservative views and her belief that happiness can be found in conforming to the status quo.”
CHEL$Y O’s Afro-Caribbean culture and womanhood are very important to her and she commands respect of their impact and relevancy in her films. Follow her on IG: @chelsthedirector_, and her film’s page @oriinufilm.
Ori Inu: In Search of Self is currently in the fundraising stage for post-production work. CHEL$Y O hosted a trailer release party at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) in Brooklyn to raise awareness about their film and kickstarter. Check out the trailer below.