Moviegoers are taught to view films set in New York as “love letters” to the city. Whether they look bad or unflattering. Blame Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, or any other list of New York filmmakers. that captures the divine chaos and innate romance of the Big Apple.
but thousand and oneA new family drama set in Harlem. Which is sure to be regarded as a legendary New York film. In fact, screenwriter and director AV Rockwell has described her debut as “an eclectic sequel”. “Sorrowful letter” to her hometown She witnessed rapid changes as a teenager.
“I love this city so deeply that it feels like part of my identity,” the 34-year-old Queens native told IndieWire in January. “I feel, OK, New York must not love me the same. I think the realization of unrequited love and negative feelings is a huge motivator for me.”
thousand and one It depicts a young woman named Inez De La Paz (Teyana Taylor) who illegally takes her son Terry (played by Aaron Kingsley, Aven Courtney, and Josiah Cross) out of the foster system after she returns from custody. At Rikers Island.
Taking place between 1994 and 2005, we watch the couple face personal hardships and injustices in Rudy Giuliani’s New York, including policing policies such as We tend to see the latter appear in mainstream media with the arrival of hipsters and expensive cafes. But Rockwell sheds light on the displacement of low-income blacks needed for such an event.
Beneath the film’s political overtones lies a tender and, in Rockwell’s words, a “universal” portrait of a mother and son possessing deep and sometimes uneasy love. and Terry embark on their own romantic journey. It reveals a broader story of the complex dynamics between black women and men. including issues of misogyny and skin color All this returns to the overarching sense of loneliness the audience experiences through Inez.
thousand and one Received many praises and one big award. That’s the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. which premiered in January. Recent award winners include an Oscar. Minari and the winner of Best Movie of 2021. CopBefore Sundance, Rockwell was already known as a compelling filmmaker. She directed a short film in 2016 for Alicia Keys’ “The Gospel,” a black-and-white video collage of black women across New York. Her follow-up is a mesmerizing short film. feather, about safe schools for black boys
with her most famous work to date. Rockwell joins a small group of black female filmmakers, including Ava Duvernay, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Dee Rees and Lena Waithe, who also produce the film. receiving the necessary level of attention and admiration. to encourage them to become the center of attention (Though preserving that title is another point.) The opportunity to tell an intimate, insightful story about women in the past is reserved only for whites. That said, the novelty of Rockwell’s groundbreaking success and the unique story she was able to tell in her first theatrical film was not lost on her.
before thousand and oneThe Daily Beast’s Obsessed, hitting theaters on March 31, spoke to Rockwell via Zoom about the challenges of creating a retro film. Casting Teyana Taylor and Revealing the Film’s Heartbreak
(Warning: light spoilers for thousand and one below.)
your previous project feather Located in the black boy’s hideout, in thousand and oneBlack characters feel unwanted and insecure all the time. previous movies Was your influence in creating this story?
I don’t know. I’m not really from that. I have written this movie (feather) That’s my love letter to black men and boys, but I thought, as I came out of that point, I began to think that “Who did that to us (girls)?” Not that I can think of many examples. How black filmmakers eulogize black women for seeing us fully and having total empathy for our experience in the world.
I want to honor those women in my life. If I could make a movie for them I’m going to make a movie for the woman in my life who raised me. Especially women of color in inner cities who are often misunderstood and invisible in society. including in our own communities.
I feel that the marginalization of black women is often reduced by the struggles of their sons or male partners. Because people will be more attuned to the struggles of a black man right. I love that Inez’s personal experience is the main story.
I think the way we represent (is) a necessary evil. If you can overcome the complexity of this woman. She will surely support you on your journey. We’re supporting characters for everyone, so I think on your point. I think the movie is just saying that we want to fully feel love. not just wanting
There is something about the dynamic between black mothers and sons. Or more broadly black men and women? That makes you Want to highlight them on this particular issue?
When it comes to the relationship between mother and child. I’m talking about this in a more universal way. The film dealt with the dynamics between black men and women, but mother-daughter (relationships)—for every mother-daughter. I also realized how men relate to their mothers. and how that relationship affects them Especially if they’re in a relationship like Terry and Inez where there’s a scar. Discipline is there.
I want to shine a light on that. This is especially true for mothers who are either single mothers or young mothers (who) are unable to support or give attention to their children. fully in the way they want especially early in life And I want these men to be more open-minded. to the experience of your mother’s life And what was your mother’s world experience like? We tend to overreact to our ideal parents. To have the opportunity to see her humanity displayed like this. The type of things she had to go through. I hope that level of understanding can heal.
When it comes to the dynamics between black men and women You’ve made some cult comments through Terry’s Simone (Alicia Pilgrim), who he doesn’t seem comfortable making wishes for because he’s dark-skinned. Viewers can assume that Inez also dealt with that. How important is the representation of that experience to you?
It’s incredibly important. I felt like I couldn’t tell the story the right way without that part included. because throughout the course of the movie You’ll see her perform for everyone. You can see how much she fights for everyone. how dedicated she is But she never got that fully in return. And I think women can relate to that across the board.
But I think for black women especially. Color plays a role in that experience. That was part of my coming of age experience in New York. The love given to us is very conditional. How colorism plays a role in that dynamic is very important. Even Terry’s journey Seeing this playing with Inez and seeing his love interest. Simon—He’s being tested. As a young man searching for who I am in my life Who am I among the black women who raised me? What kind of man would I be for them?
Teyana Taylor’s incredible portrayal of Inez Did you have her in mind for the movie right away because of her Harlem?
No, we didn’t know each other before. Her name has appeared a few times before. But I haven’t seen enough examples of her as an actress or examples of what she can do. It was a very demanding role. So the idea was thrown away. But at first I ignored it.
But she sent the tape like everyone else. and from that point I’ve seen a lot of women who, when she stands out, She stands out like a beautiful jewel. I think there’s exactly the type of actress I’m looking for. Not only does she have to have a pedigree to play such a challenging role; But she also had to be honest with her.
As a woman in New York City I’m picking someone who represents New York City women with a level of integrity. especially (for) in the city Women in New York City and don’t feel that level of privilege. I think if anyone who is not related to the person Is this in real life or does not know people This in real life took on this role. It would be another example of me just disguising her presence in the world by saying, You are not good enough to be an official representative.
How challenging was it to recreate this moment in New York? There are many aerial photos of the city and these changing storefronts.
Bigger than I thought because I’ve lived in New York all my life. And I’ve lived in Harlem for years too. So I had a good sense of how I wanted to take over this city. To be able to use what we have and build on what we do. But I think what makes it even more challenging is making this film in the midst of COVID. We have to make sure it’s a safe outfit. It ate up like a million dollar budget. Every movie that was being made during that time That’s what you oppose. But filming in New York City was really difficult. Our license is very limited.
Moreover You have all the COVID masks you need to hide behind. Everyone has masks on their faces, so I had to develop a specific language for the film. We are very focused on our location. which we use as a backdrop or build our scene on top But the visual effects are very helpful. Sharon Lomofsky was my production designer. Obviously, our Eric Yue DP is very important. And Melissa Vargas, the costume designer. All those elements come together and make it a lot easier.
The movie ends with a big reveal about Inez and Terry’s relationship. It only made the bond that we had watched throughout the film even better. But it still seems like a bold choice to be a filmmaker. Are you nervous that plot points will turn or ruin the movie for the audience?
I’m very happy that it hit you. Because it made me very nervous. I’m just trying to defend the way the story is made. And I think it’s all there. If you want to watch again There are hints to tell how their journey will end. But I think it’s scary because I don’t know how other people will feel about them and their relationship. I don’t know if people still feel attached to them. especially Inez—The choices she made. the mistakes she made and questionable decisions
And I really don’t know (Because I’m) making a movie in a cave. You are all around you and your associates. I think there is something that feels more certain. The mother-daughter aspect as I finished the movie was the only thing I felt as confident about as I thought the audience would resonate. But I think I’m very relieved by the feedback we’ve received so far. It adds value to the way people relate to these characters.