With Black Film On The Rise, Indie Film 'Brown Girl Begins' Continues The Push For Female Directors
There's room for more of us.
The film industry has recently enjoyed what seems to be a shift in the tide, the long overdue reality that the films we love, sci-fi, fantasy, epic superhero stories, can include a diverse cast and be successful. Of course many of us knew this already. But, it is monumental. We have seen strides be made in other genres of film, not nearly enough as there should be, but progress has been made. Does the inclusion of a diverse cast in genres of film like sci-fi and fantasy suggest that a real shift is happening? A shift that is not just a hopeful trend, but a real change? Black Panther and A Wrinkle In Time’seem to be spearheading a possible new reality in the film business and following close behind is an indie film out of Canada that you should know about. Brown Girl Begins is the first ever Canadian-Caribbean sci-fi film and according to the film's director, perhaps, its very existence—the actuality that a black, sci-fi film in the indie world can exist, means that the shift we are experiencing in the mainstream is offering permission for a shift for filmmakers outside the mainstream.
“Because there are two blockbuster, black, sci-fi films in the industry right now, maybe there is more opportunity for a warm reception to an artsy, shoe-string budget, black, sci-fi film, with a female protagonist to hit audiences. A film that would have been dismissed for being artsy, indie, and not mainstream, might now be seen as having more commercial value” says the film's director, Sharon Lewis.
Lewis has been on a 15-year journey to make this film. After encountering every possible hurdle a black female director can encounter, she believes that now is the time for ‘Brown Girl Begins’ to be seen by the world. This is the exact moment. The opportunity was not possible sooner.
The film is powerful, dystopian, afro-futurist and is centered on the life of a young black woman named Ti-Jeanne. Inspired by Nalo Hopkinson’s incredibly successful novel, ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’, it is a coming of age story of a young heroine who has to choose to step into the power that is available to her through her family and ancestral spirits. Filmed in Toronto, the film stars Mouna Traorè (Ransom, In Contempt), Emmanuel Kabongo (Hemlock Grove), Shakura S'Aida (Lost Girl) Rachael Crawford (The Expanse), with guest appearances from renowned opera singer, Measha Brueggergosman and calypsonian superstar, David Rudder.
Born out of a desire to represent the young black female in a powerful way, where she holds the power, where she can dictate her future, where she is the master of her own domain, the film and its director accomplish just that. I know this because I witnessed it in the making. My name is Vince Buda and I am the producer of ‘Brown Girl Begins’. I witnessed the determination, the spirit, power and grit Lewis displayed, in many ways against all odds, in an industry that doesn’t favor the female black voice, crusade her way through and never waver against all obstacles. I witnessed a team of people assemble with one active purpose, with a collective mind knowing that we were making something special. Making something at a time where the conversation in the zeitgeist was changing. Where we suddenly were surrounded by the active swell of movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’ and other feminist movements, where we knew as we were making this film, that we were doing so, at the exact moment in time that it needed to be and could be made. That we were participating and contributing to conversations of representation and cultural participation in the most effective way we know how: by creating, without barrier or apology. That spirit, proposed by our fearless leader Sharon Lewis, carried us, and so here we land, with ‘Brown Girl Begins’.
The film is going on a North-American tour during Black History Month, with screenings at the Pan African Film Festival in LA, Feb 9th, 10th & 11th, as well as Brooklyn, NY on Feb 13th. For all current and future screening details, to pre-order a DVD, or to learn more, visit the film's website at browngirlbegins.com. We hope you’ll join the conversation.