The #SayHerName movement, which illuminates forgotten women killed by the police, is also a symbol of being a black woman in America. (In) visible portraits, Oge Egbuonu's directorial debut, heighten this awareness and explore generations of other black women.
"This documentary is a timeless piece," Egbuonu told BET.com. “It is also a think piece. It is something I wanted to create to celebrate black women and show awe of them. "
The gripping documentary Egbuonu calls her "love letter to black women" the story of oppression, today's reality and optimism for future generations. The film deals with the continuation of the tropics of the country from Aunt Jemima Mammy to the seducer Jezebel and contains historical references and a critical analysis of the abuse of black women's bodies and the controversy about the beauty of black women.
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And since certain brands are forcing racist stereotypes to withdraw and protests against racist and gender injustices continue across the country, Egbuonu believes that today is the right time for this film to educate communities on "how to honor black women and ours." Knows history ".
Egbuonu, a child of Nigerian immigrants, moved from Houston, Texas to Los Angeles eight years ago and started working in retail before becoming a restorative yoga teacher. Ged Doherty, co-founder of Raindog Films alongside actor Colin Firth, was one of her students; he invited her to join her independent production company. During her three-year tenure, she was the producer of Loving and Eye in the Sky.
Egbuonu was released today on June 19 and speaks to BET.com about the inspiration behind (in) visible portraits, how the film changed her life forever, and the encouraging words that made the difference to her sister friend Halle Berry.
Filmmaker Oge Egbuonu
Photo credit Ryan Eng
BET.com: What inspired the film?
Oge Egbuonu: I had just left Raindog Films and someone referred me to executive producer Michael Meyer. At our first meeting, Michael told me that he saw this video of Isiah Thomas being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Isiah cried and said how much his mother had sacrificed for him to be where he is, and Michael said, “I realized that nothing was created to celebrate black mothers. I really want to do something that celebrates black mothers. "
I said, "No disrespect, but why you? Why do you wanna make it "He is a middle-aged white man, but he said," I have had this vision for a few years and when I saw this YouTube video by Isaiah Thomas I brought it home. "
I told him if I did something it would be about celebrating black women because black women are black women before they are black mothers. So I want to do something that celebrates and reveres black women. I accused him of that and he loved it and financed the project.
BET.com: How important is this film in today's political climate and after the current protests?
Oge Egbuonu: The film would have been contemporary without the current uprising and the pandemic. What makes it even more important today is when I think about who is behind the movements in the history of this country: Black women have led most of the movements. Women like Ella Baker, of whom most people are unaware, have all developed strategies and ensured that the communities were fed during the civil rights movement. Women like Ella helped Martin Luther King Jr. and other men who were the face of these movements. And now, with the Black Lives Matter movement founded by three black women, everything is very relevant to the film because (these) women get recognition. When I see the murder and rape of black women like Oluwatoyin Salau, the protester of the Black Lives Matter who was brutally murdered recently, this documentary speaks directly to everything that is happening now.
BET.com: With that in mind, who is this film for?
Oge Egbuonu: This film is primarily for black women. It is a love letter that says, "I see you, I hear you and you are important." Second, this film is a re-education for everyone else on how to honor black women and know our history.
BET.com: You decided to include 22 women and girls in the film. How did you decide who made it?
Oge Egbuonu: I did research for about eight months, I worked six days a week, 14 hours a day, and the scientists, experts and authors in the documentation are the women I read during my research phase. These are women who have rearranged my thoughts with their books in the most beautiful and powerful way. I reached out and asked if they would be part of the vision I wanted to create.
I fell in love with the WTSAC (The Watts Labor Community Action Committee) in Los Angeles, which is led by Sheila Thomas, who also plays in the documentary. I sat down and told Sheila about my vision and she said, “Absolutely, you have my support. But let me be very clear, people come into these communities and take advantage of these people's stories, and they never see and never hear from them again. And so I can introduce you to these women, but it's up to you to build that relationship with them and tell them their story. I can't get her to do that. “And that's how I did the job.
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BET.com: Have there been any scenes or interviews in the film that you found particularly memorable?
Oge Egbuonu: Memorable? I mean, this whole film and its production changed my life in many ways because I learned so much. For example, I had no idea of the origins of the song "Amazing Grace" and I think this will really resonate with most people, especially black people.
There is also a moment with the beautiful young girl, Empress Ariella, who says that because of her “condition” that she has crossed her eyes, she has to learn to say in the mirror that she is beautiful and worthy. My crew and I played ball when she said that. Moments like this during this whole experience changed me forever.
BET.com What do you think needs to be done for black women in America?
Oge Egbuonu: It amounts to re-education. Society is all social constructs and we live in someone else's imagination. So it starts with the understanding that everything we experience started with a thought. It started with an idea. What needs to be done goes back to the re-education process – getting people to do the work of self-reflection and consciously trying to understand and be better or be better. In this way, people can start to deal with their portrayal because thoughts lead to actions.
BET.com: How did you react when Halle Berry shared your film's trailer on her Instagram?
Oge Egbuonu: Oh, Halle is a dear friend of mine. She was there from the start. When I got the offer for the film, I was scared, so I went to her home. I cried and said to her, "I can't. I've never directed. “And it was their encouragement that spurred me on. She literally picked me up off the floor and said, "You do it. If I have to get my entire team behind you to do this, you do it. You know how many white men are directing in Hollywood for the first time, and you have no idea what you are doing? You have to tell this story. “So I called the investor and said yes. Halle is a family to me and their support means everything.
(In) Visual Portraits debuts today, June 19th, and can be rented or bought from Vimeo.
Rita Omokha is a New York-based writer who writes about news, politics, and culture. She is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Photo courtesy of Domino Powell
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