Goodbye, winter caps—hello, summer hats! It’s that glorious time of year where many of us can switch from content creators to content consumers. NYWIFT members Mellini Kantayya and Kathryn O’Kane have put together #SummerHours, a series of fun summer books, movies, and TV shows by or about women.
By Kathryn O’Kane
Ruby Dee (NYWIFT Muse honoree ’97) and her husband Ossie Davis were enduring actors, who fought for civil rights from Washington, DC to Hollywood. In 1965, Ms. Dee starred in King Lear and The Taming of the Shrew, becoming the first black woman to appear in major roles at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, CT. Both Ms. Dee and Mr. Davis appeared in Spike Lee’s career-launching film Do The Right Thing. Throughout their careers, they often portrayed the lives of black Americans, both extraordinary and ordinary, on the stage and in film, seeking out films that explored racial inequality in America. They were married for nearly 60 years.
Their 1998 joint memoir In This Life Together begins with an anecdote about dining with President Clinton after being honored by at the Kennedy Center Honors. From there, they reflect on their journeys, weaving parallel stories of their upbringing (Ms. Dee in Harlem; Mr. Davis in rural Georgia), their groundbreaking careers, and their relationship to each other. Throughout their ups and downs, they both had profound respect for the other, even at times when they didn’t feel as close. Writes Mr. Davis of Ms. Dee, “I have no hungers that you do not feed.”
They detail their involvement in the civil rights movement, from their role as emcees at the March on Washington in 1963 and their friendship with Malcolm X, to advocating for more employment for black people in Hollywood both in front of and behind the camera. Mr. Davis explained, “We would train black technicians on our own then pressure the unions to let them in. Knowing this would take a long time, we decided to produce black films on our own…starting Third World Cinema in 1971.”
Ms. Dee offers this prescient advice: “The largest piece of business for humankind is poverty. Spiritual as well as material. Racism yes and sexism too…struggle is all there is, and we are still committed.”
The audio book is read by both and is particularly poignant now that they are gone.
(Cover photo by Bridgette Matthews)
Two NYWIFT members have joined forces with a team of immigrant women filmmakers to tell the story of WORK, a short film written and directed by Aoife Williamson. WORK, a comedy-drama, follows Lilith, a musician scrambling to create a song in one day to submit for a job that could sky-rocket her music career. It just so happens that this day is a very busy day at her money job... and it just so happens that her “money job” is as a sex worker, named Eve.READ MORE
Hailed by historian Robin Kelley as “one of the most powerful and inspiring documentaries of our era,” NYWIFT member Kavery Kaul’s Long Way from Home is the moving and provocative story of three remarkable girls entering ninth grade at top schools steeped in bias towards race, class, and culture. Though the film was made nearly 15 years ago, the issues still resonate in today’s climate of racial injustice and civil unrest. Kavery sat down to discuss how she put together this incredible portrait and what – if anything – has changed in our culture in the years since.READ MORE
Recap: NYWIFT Talks Black Lives Matter and Just Mercy with Scott Budnick, April Grayson and Donna Hylton
NYWIFT Executive Director Cynthia López moderated the July 1, 2020 installment of NYWIFT Talks with the team behind Just Mercy, a powerful and thought-provoking true-story film which follows young lawyer Bryan Stevenson and his history-making battle for justice. The film stars Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson, and was available to rent for free across all platforms earlier this Summer in response to the Black Lives Matter movement following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.READ MORE
Filmmaker Sue Williams has a love affair with the city of Hong Kong. So when a friend introduced her to the Cantopop superstar Denise Ho, she knew she had the subject of her next film. But, what happens when current events upend the planned story arch of your film at the end of production?READ MORE