A mother struggles with a new normal after her son is shot by an off-duty police officer.
As I entered Ms. Stewart’s one-woman show, Junior, I was given a "Fox News" badge to wear. I asked if I could exchange mine for an NPR tag or even "The New York Times." The usher was sweet but said that we were not given an individual choice as we sit in the audience. My perspective was assigned and this, I realized, was part of the performance.
The show started. From the moment Ms. Stewart walked on stage to the moment the show was over, I was moved by how she created from many interviews with mothers of the murdered, one story that explores how one mother prepares for the funeral of her son. Since my own work often uses documentary interviews to craft one fictional narrative structure, her storytelling approach, not to mention her authenticity and treatment of the material as a mother, an artist, and an intellect, drew me in.
Ever a fan of Rodrigo Garcia’s 2005 work, "Nine Lives," where he gives women voice through short films shot as one continuous image, I proposed to Ms. Stewart the possibility of adapting her work into a one-shot short film. It is impossible to look away from a mother in pain, and the crimes that caused it.
As a filmmaker, my work is inspired by the concept of Tikkun Olam, leaving the world a better place than how I found it. The moment I saw Ms. Stewart’s work on stage, I knew that collaborating with her on developing this voice on film would be an opportunity to be a vessel for change.
WRITER'S STATEMENT FROM ELLE JAE STEWART
I am numb and battling about which tone to take on as I speak. Do I approach this unexplainable rhythm with political jargon, poetic affection, or maternal articulation?
On August 9, 2014, I questioned my American citizenship. Does the law protect me? Am I truly free? On this day, Michael Brown was massacred on the streets of his community by a rookie police officer. His extinguished body laid uncovered in the sweltering heat for four hours, like the local attraction at a zoo. The murderer is unapologetically living freely with his wife and child, able to leave home whenever he feels, able to breath fresh air. I beg the question, is this freedom for all?
The case of Michael Brown deeply saddened me and awakened a voice within me to create. I wrote a one-woman show affectionately titled Junior because they are killing our children. The title represents the direct connection, the unbroken rhythm to our ancestors. The story follows a mothers journey to a new normal after her teenage son is murdered by an off duty officer. It questions the role of the media and its influences, it questions our humanity, and it questions the freedom or lack thereof for a certain group of people.
My spirit is enraged just as it was on August 9th with the latest influx of unjust murders. The recent deaths of Alton Sterling, Delwran Small, Antwun Shumpert and Philando Castile are repeated portraits of an African American status in America, and the list keeps growing: feared, therefore, killed!
I believe that every performance is an opportunity to change a life, enlighten an individual’s intellect, encourage thought, embrace the question of how and why, and gain respect for another’s culture and philosophies.
SCREENINGS & AWARDS
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