Will (1981)

Written, produced, and directed by Jessie Maple, Will depicts a man, Will (Obaka Adedunyo), a former All-American basketball player, trying to kick his drug habit. He and his wife take in and nurture a homeless boy called Little Brother. By practicing self-empowerment, mentoring the boy, and coaching a girl’s basketball team, Will is able to contain his addiction and regain his life. The first independent feature film to be directed by a black woman, Will maintains a positive course while confronting struggle and tragedy. A New Yorker, Maples also pictures Harlem and its street life in the early eighties as part of a lively, complex neighborhood without the sensational violence or melodrama of contemporaneous Blaxploitation movies.

A true pioneer, Jessie Maple, following her education at NET Channel 13 Training School and Third World Cinema in New York, became the first African American woman to join the union of International Photographers of Motion Picture & Television (IATSE) in New York in 1974. Maple and her husband, Leroy Patton, founded LJ Film Productions, Inc. in the same year and began producing short documentaries. In 1982, Maple founded 20 West, Home of Black Cinema in Harlem as a showplace for independent black films. Maple’s work, in the genre of urban cinema, was a forerunner of the independent, minority filmmaking that would cultivate directors like Spike Lee, Charles Burnett, Leslie Harris and Lee Daniels.


Director Jessie Maple