Saturday, February 29, 2020

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival


So, at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival this happened
Dankwa Brooks with the Judges of the competition

From the Press Release:
"Donald Dankwa Brooks was awarded first place for his original script that demonstrated a keen awareness of the complex perspectives surrounding criminal justice. He was one of five finalists — selected from the more than 100 submissions that came from competitors across the country — awarded a trip to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah to pitch their scripts to a panel of esteemed judges. The judges included representatives from Strayer University, The Blackhouse Foundation, the criminal justice system, and the film and television industry."
 (Read the entire article via the link at the bottom of this post.)

It was a SUCH a whirlwind of being there that it took me this long to write about it. LOL
The competition took place at the Sundance Film Festival, the annual film festival, that takes place in Utah, is the largest independent film festival in the United States. 

This is the social media announcement of the competition.
The day after we all arrived at Sundance, we had the Pitch Competition. After I won, everything after that was a blur. LOL. There was a ton of pictures and interviews. Strayer Studios, the internal filmmaking unit of Strayer University, filmed EVERYTHING, and those materials will be available shortly. 

We had another Meet & Greet to attend and then we were free to experience the festival and the insane crowds. LOL. My driver from the airport told me that the crowds that first weekend would be insane and indeed they were.

My family and friends asked me to keep them updated about my time at Sundance and I tried to on social media at hashtag #NBE_Sundance. If you search that hashtag across social media (On Facebook, but mostly Instagram and Twitter), you’ll see my real-time posts. Below are a couple of my tweets.

I’ve been to other film festivals, but Sundance is really “next level” and something to behold. I’m still kind of recuperating, but I can’t wait to go back! LOL

My last full day at Sundance I recorded a Thank You message to the overwhelming response I got from everyone. You can watch that message below.



Here is the official 2020 highlights video  

💡READ the official press release below and stay tuned to this blog for more announcements.

Strayer University and The Blackhouse Foundation Name Donald Dankwa Brooks Winner of Scriptwriter Competition to Bring Real Perspectives on Criminal Justice to the Classroom


Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Harlem Renaissance - BOOK REVIEW

The Harlem Renaissance: Hub of African-American Culture, 1920-1930 by Steven Watson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew about the HARLEM RENAISSANCE, but I fell in love with the time period when I studied it in Humanities at MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY. This book is an excellent further exploration of that time period. The book not only highlights the key figures, but the entire environment in which this historically cultural time took place.

Black folk didn’t have a lot of money, didn’t have a lot of anything, but what we had was SOUL. In the book you can see that ever since our presence on this continent, black folk had to do more with less and DID, even to the admiration and adoration of white folk. This book expertly details a lot of that. It also details the patrons of the Renaissance and how that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

The book touches on all aspects of the renaissance, including the environment/community like the section on the famous “Harlem Rent Parties”, the night life, the famous clubs like THE COTTON CLUB and THE SAVOY BALLROOM and the music artists/performers like JOSEPHINE BAKER, EARL “SNAKEHIPS” TUCKER, BESSIE SMITH, BILL “BOJANGLES” ROBINSON and ETHEL WATERS. The book focused most on the intellectuals, writers and journalists of the renaissance.

Famous figures like W. E. B. DU BOIS, LANGSTON HUGHES and ZORA NEALE HURSTON are heavily featured, but also JAMES WELDON JOHNSON, ALAIN LOCKE, ARTURO SCHOMBURG, WALLACE THURMAN, CLAUDE MCKAY, JEAN TOOMER and COUNTEE CULLEN are featured prominently.

The book also highlighted the patrons of the renaissance like the “Harlem Hostess” A’LELIA WALKER, but also white patrons like CHARLOTTE MASON and CARL VAN VECHTEN.

As a passage in the book stated, “CONTROLLING THE BLACK IMAGE. One consequence of the rising white interest in African-American literature was the black intelligentsia's drive to control its own image. Renaissance writers, intellectuals, and artists were charged with articulating a racial identity that not only plumbed indigenous black experience but simultaneously assumed a positive face for white society.“ This is ALWAYS the struggle.

The book was a WEALTH of information on this time period. This was SUCH a prodigious time for black artists and being a black artist, the Harlem Renaissance has always made me PROUD.


EPILOGUE
Because I’m so in love with the time period, I took copious notes via GoodReads on the book and shared them on the site HERE

View all my BOOK reviews on GoodReads

Monday, April 29, 2019

John Singleton

Below is my tribute to John Singleton (January 6, 1968-April 29, 2019) and a short video tribute by The Hollywood Reporter


View this post on Instagram

#Repost @dankwabrooks ・・・ My heart is so heavy right now. 💔 JOHN SINGLETON was one of the FIRST black filmmakers to inspire me. You see the batch of filmmakers pictured on that New York Times Magazine cover are the ones that made this black kid🙋🏾‍♂️think I could be a filmmaker too and Singleton was chief among them. As a movie fan I loved ‘Boyz n The Hood’ the first time I saw it. I was too young to get into the whole blaxploitation era so ‘Boyz’ was one of the FIRST films that I saw that CAPTURED the black experience that I knew in the hood. It was raw, it was visceral, it was something I innately knew, even though it was set in a city over 2,000 miles away. I FELT that film. Even after I myself went to Film School, knew A LOT MORE about the techniques he employed to direct this film and upon rewatching it thought “this is a f*cking masterpiece!” I discovered that quote about “protecting your vision” not too long before I posted it, but as stated it “exemplifies why” I switched majors in college to study directing and filmmaking. Again he personified what I felt as a black filmmaker. I am forever in your debt Mr. Singleton and I join the fray of filmmakers, BLACK filmmakers, who were influenced by you. Your art will forever live on and continue to inspire many. Rest In Peace sir. 🎬🌹
A post shared by 'Nother Brother Ent.,LLC (@notherbrother) on





SEE more posts on this blog about
John Singleton HERE

Monday, August 6, 2018

Jinn - Review


 
JINN

Written and Directed by Directed by Nijla Mu'min

Produced by Elton Brand, Angela Harvey, Jason Kampf, Mike C. Manning, Shandra L. McDonald, Amy McGary, Kristen McGary, Billy Mulligan and Tommy Oliver.

Cinematography by Bruce Francis Cole

Starring: Zoe Renee, Simone Missick, Hisham Tawfiq, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Dorian Missick.

Summary: Summer is a 17-year old carefree black girl, whose world is turned upside down when her mother, a popular meteorologist named Jade Jennings, abruptly converts to Islam and becomes a different person, prompting Summer to reevaluate her identity.

REVIEW: What a wonderful coming of age story featuring a brown girl as its lead. It’s not often I see an intelligent, heartwarming story about young black people that’s not about inner city crime and or its residual effects on black life. This film is about another aspect of black life, one that isn’t often explored in film and a religion that isn’t often politicized and or ‘weaponized” as a storytelling device in a spy/action movie–Islam.

Left to right: Zoe Renee and Simone Missick
I’m not a Muslim, but having many close family members of the faith, I know a lot about it and this film captured it perfectly. All the tenets are there and it’s not heavy handed or watered down. If there ever was a perfect blend of the faith with an everyday relatable story this is it.

Zoe Renee (center) and Kelvin Harrison Jr. (right)
The performances by the cast are great including the lead Zoe Renee who plays 17-year old Summer to perfection. She is instantly relatable, lovable and real. You never think she’s a perfect angel, but she isn’t a miscreant either. She’s the perfect blend of what adolescents usually are–evolving. Also great is Kelvin Harrison Jr. as her love interest in the film "Tahir". Their chemistry comes off as sweet and sincere without being saccharine.

Simone Missick (known as “Misty Knight” from Luke Cage, pictured below) as her mother is also great and gives a really heartfelt performance as a woman and mom who is evolving herself.

Everything about this picture succeeds because of the wonderful tone by writer/director Nijla Mu'min. This picture have really been heavy handed and trite or really maudlin, but never was. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Bruce Francis Cole, every scene, every shot perfectly escalated the story in a natural organic way.

This film is an achievement in every aspect and one of the best independent films I’ve seen this year!

Notes: I saw this film this past weekend at the 7th Annual Blackstar Film Festival in Philadelphia where this happened.

And previously
No word yet on when this film will be widely released, but I'll be sure to update this review with those details. Until then you can watch the trailer below and below that visit the film's website.

UPDATE AUGUST 14, 2018
Orion Classics announced today [August 14, 2018] that they have acquired the North American and Latin American rights to Jinn. Orion Classics has set a theatrical release for the drama on Nov. 15 followed by a Nov. 16 release on VOD and Digital HD.–Deadline


VISIT THE FILM'S WEBSITE
by clicking the graphic below

Friday, March 9, 2018

Black Panther - Review

BLACK PANTHER

Directed by Ryan Coogler
Produced by Kevin Feige

Written by
Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole

Starring
Chadwick Boseman
Michael B. Jordan
Lupita Nyong'o
Danai Gurira
Martin Freeman
Daniel Kaluuya
Letitia Wright
Winston Duke
Angela Bassett
Forest Whitaker
Andy Serkis

Cinematography by Rachel Morrison

Production Design by Hannah Beachler

Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter

Release Date: February 16, 2018 (USA)

Summary: After the death of his father, T'Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T'Challa's mettle as king -- and as Black Panther -- gets tested when he's drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

REVIEW: I never thought that I would see a superhero movie so entrenched in black/African culture on a scale such as this. It is also one of the best origin stories in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

If you didn’t know before, you certainly will after watching this film, that Black Panther is a BLACK superhero. Thankfully we now have other black heroes currently in media (Luke Cage, Black Lightning), but while those are television series and urban, this film is definitely something else.

Black Panther is a hugely a self-contained origin story. By “self-contained” I mean that unlike the origin story of Thor (2011), which spread its story between two locales, Asgard and Earth, this film takes place, for the most part in Wakanda.

Wakanda in Black Panther


It’s a film about a hero that’s steeped in family, tradition and honor. While Wakanda is a fictional African country you can see the filmmakers took every chance they could to interline African cultural nuances (I’ll explain more on that later). Wakanda is a futuristic country that was never colonized by outsiders because it thrived in secrecy. That tradition of secrecy is the engine that drives the entire story.

Having established the culture of the story, this is STILL a superhero movie and the action never disappoints! The new king quickly goes on an undercover mission to recover a precious Wakandian export as well as confront an old adversary named Ulysses Klaue. What the king and his cohort discover on that mission is that they have a new even more menacing adversary in Erik Killmonger.

Without giving anything away it is from that point that everything moves fast in the movie and that’s really the only problem I had–it moved too fast. Certain events happen and before you know it–the end.

The star-studded cast in the film never disappoints from the king T’Challa himself Chadwick Boseman, who brings all the regality and statesmanship we saw in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and expands upon it. We also get to see some of his more personal side as he deals with the many challenges of his new throne.

Left to Right: Winston Duke, Andy Serkis, Michael B. Jordan character posters


The “challenges” in the movie come from a great trio, Winston Duke as M'Baku steals a lot of the scenes he’s in and the other two Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue and Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger pose the greatest challenge to the new king. Serkis had a lot of fun with his role and you can see his Klaue’s main goal is to expose the hidden country that is Wakanda and pillage it.

Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger
Killmonger’s goal is aligned with Klaue’s–until it’s not. That’s all I’m going to say except, all three pose worthy adversaries to T’Challa.

The other supporting characters Zuri played by Forest Whitaker and Ramonda played by Angela Bassett lent grace and presence to their characters. Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross was good too and as one of the only non-black cast members did not overshadow the larger story. Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia was good as well as a spy operative for Wakanda who also happens to be T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend.

Dora Milaje 


The other women in the film standout though. From the awesome Dora Milaje to Princess Shuri, they were terrific.


left to right: Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright in Black Panther

Letitia Wright
as Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister and the head of Wakandian tech, was an effervescent delight in every scene she was in. She brought genuine laughs without coming off silly as well as projecting that she is also a scientific genius. The Dora Milaje statuesque and magnificent were led by the ever capable Danai Gurira as Okoye.
Danai Gurrira as Okoye
Gurrira as Okoye was my favorite character in the film and when you see it, you’ll see why.

The entire cast were perfect in their roles regardless if the role was major or minor. Each played a part in fully realizing this origin story.

I can’t end this review without giving props–Mad Props to the filmmakers.

Ryan Coogler and Chadwick Boseman on the set of Black Panther
First and foremost I have to mention the director Ryan Coogler, who not only directed, but co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole. Coogler proves once again that he is a force to reckon with in Hollywood. He is aided by great cinematography work by recent Oscar nominee Rachel Morrison.

Hannah Beachler
The wonderful and interlined African influence I spoke of earlier was definitely realized through the amazing work of Production Designer Hannah Beachler. In case you don’t know, in film and television, a Production Designer is the person responsible for the overall visual look of the production. Meaning they control the look of everything you see on screen. The look of every set in the film. Even if it's an existing location, the Production Designer may have things added or taken away to suit the film.

As she stated, Beachler wanted to honor the comics with her designs, and then fill in the gaps with research concentrated on Sub-Saharan Africa, pulling inspiration from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia, as well as the designs of Zaha Hadid.

Ruth E. Carter
Aided in the rich, bold look of the film was Oscar nominated Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter. The Costume Designer is responsible for every item of clothes worn in the film. Even before the movie premiered people were “cos playing” her designs. (You can see an excellent example of that below in the “Bonus Features”).

For Black Panther Carter referenced the Maasai, Himba, Dogon, Basotho, Tuareg, Turkana, Xhosa, Zulu, Suri and Dinka people in her designs for Wakanda. Both Beachler and Carter wonderfully brought to life this “afro-futuristic” country with real world exuberance.(VIDEO of her talking about the designs is below in the "Bonus Features" as well.)

As you can see the filmmakers painstakingly not only created an entertaining superhero movie, but went through great lengths to make sure that even though this is a fictional African country, it still retains a lot of real life African culture and to me that is the real success of the film. Black Panther is a film overflowing with African legacy, pride and tradition–that also happens to be a great superhero film. It indeed makes you think about Wakanda now and “Wakanda forever”.

UPDATES

JANUARY 21, 2019
I LIVE TWEETED the Feature Commentary in a Twitter thread linked below

JANUARY 22, 2019
Read more about Black Panther's Academy Awards nominations at  ‘Black Panther’ Becomes 1st Superhero Movie Nominated for Best Picture


BONUS FEATURES

Below are a TON of bonus features about the film as well as links to the other posts about the filmmakers right here on the blog


BLOG POST:  What Does a Production Designer Do? [featuring Hannah Beachler]

REVIEWS of previous films by Ryan Coogler [Fruitvale Station (2013) and Creed (2015) ] at the link HERE

Stories on our TWITTER about the filmmaking of the film


From our FACEBOOK page VIDEO of Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter talking about the costumes of Black Panther



Excellent example of Black Panther CosPlay Published two days before the movie premiered in theaters.
Read more about these photos HERE 


ARTICLE:  'Black Panther' Costume Designer Talks Tribal-Tech Inspirations

ARTICLE: The Costume, Hair And Makeup In Marvel's 'Black Panther' Are A Celebration Of Black Culture And Heritage: From the new Black Panther supersuit to Lupita Nyong'o's Wakanda-honoring knots. 


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cinematography of Lighting Black Skin-HBO's 'Insecure' [VIDEO]

HBO: Insecure

Ava Berkofsky, 'Insecure’s director of photography, was brought on for the show’s second season (currently airing on HBO) to give the show a more movie-like look, which includes making black faces not only legible, but striking.

“When I was in film school, no one ever talked about lighting nonwhite people,” Berkofsky said in a phone interview with Mic. “There are all these general rules about lighting people of color, like throw green light or amber light at them. It’s weird.” These rules are a start, but they’re far from a complete picture.

“The conventional way of doing things was that if you put the skin tones around 70 IRE, it’s going to look right,” Berkofsky said. IRE, a unit used in the measurement of composite video signals (named for the initials of the Institute of Radio Engineers), ranges from 0 to 100. “If you’ve got black skin, [dialing it] up to 50 or 70 is just going to make the rest of the image look weird.” The resulting image looks very bright, Berkofsky noted, similar to what you’d see in traditional sitcoms like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The Cosby Show." –Mic

READ the entire article about lighting black skin on Insecure @ Mic  HERE and WATCH the great video below.



Friday, September 1, 2017

Black Panther’s Production Designer Talks About Bringing the Film to Life

African American film Production Designer Hannah Beachler has worked on Fruitvale Station (2013), Creed (2015), Miles Ahead (2015), Lemonade (2016), Moonlight (2016) and the upcoming Black Panther (2018).

In the video linked below she talks about working on Black Panther.

ADDITIONAL 
You can read more about what exactly a Production Designer does in our post

What Does a Production Designer Do?