“My work is rooted in my experiences as an immigrant, an African American woman, and a mother.”
I have been making films and videos for close to 20 years using Super 8, 16mm film and digital video… Whether making a documentary, experimental or narrative piece, I begin by collecting information through interviews, articles or audiotapes. In examining the collected material, I usually finds a path to the story that is waiting to be told.
Growing up watching Hollywood movies in Jamaica, I immigrated to the US as a child and encountered an America that was unlike the one I had seen on television. This America was segregated and poor. It wasn’t until much later that I could articulate this disconnect. The images marketed and consumed about American culture did not fully represent the reality most people lived. It was not until much later that I understood the power of films, videos to shape our perspective of reality. If I had to articulate a guiding principle of my work, it would be finding one’s own truth amidst the clutter of media images. It is my firm belief that images, especially mass marketed images, are powerful in their ability to shape consciousness. If we as a culture do not see images of the poor, images of the imprisoned, images of war then their reality is muted and their significance lessened. My films and videos have questioned the images we consume as a society: imagery about America and about other cultures. They invert the reality shown in Hollywood or on television to provide a more honest perspective of the lives of women. In particular poor or working class women of color.
Freedom Road (2004) focuses on the three women inmates who are participants in a memoir writing class in prison. These powerful and intelligent women articulate the reality of their lives through writing. Just Another War (2008) asks why we see little or no imagery of war during a time of war (Iraq war). My earlier work Strands (1995) is a coming of age film that directly examines the impact of media images on the filmmaker as she attempts to define herself outside of the media images projected at her. Shot in Super 8 black and white film and a using a handheld technique, it is deliberately in stark contrast to the polished images of the ideal of womanhood that the filmmaker had viewed as a child watching Hollywood movies. My Wolverine (1997) filmed in 16mm vacillates between black and white and color to get at a childhood recollection of domestic violence. The film exposes domestic violence within the idealized nuclear family and ends on a note asking its viewers to be “unafraid” to confront those who attempt to dis-empower others because of their gender or race.
My films have been screened at film-festivals within the US, including the New Orleans Film Festival, the Mill Valley Film Festival and Women in the Director’s Chair as well as internationally. My Wolverine (1998) received the Jury Award at the 5@5 Program at the Mill Valley Film Festival 1998 and Best Experimental from the National Black Programming Consortium. Freedom Road (2004) which profiles women prisoners in a memoir writing workshop has been broadcast nationally on US television and has been screened internationally. It is currently distributed by Women Make Movies. Just Another War screened at the 2008 Athens Film Festival in Ohio and the 2009 Montreal International Human Rights Film Festival. I have also presented work at universities including Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University, George Washington University. In 2012 I was a recipient of the Leeway Transformation Award Grant for using art in the service of social change.
Seven Square Miles (2020) is my latest film which follows a collaborative effort between a female police officer Alexis Durlacher and a community activist Abdul Mohammed, as they run a prison diversion program called Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy, in an attempt to reduce gun crime in the city. Over the course of a year we witness their struggle to keep this small but vital program alive as they confront the enormity of the task at hand.