Best Movies of the Decade (personal faves)

Considering I study film and everything surrounding it, you would think that I would have more blog posts dedicated to the topic; though there are a handful on the site already. Up until I decided to start pursuing the subject as a degree full time, I always saw films as time-fillers. I know, I can sense film fans and students alike cringing at that statement. But it’s true, I’m afraid!

When I think back on my experience with films, I remember those awkward pre-adolescent sleepovers where we’d stock up on all kinds of junk food, wearing the craziest clothes just to sit in your best friends bedroom or lounge, where everyone would gather round the television to watch Mean girls, Wild Child, Bridesmaids, Juno…or something of the sort. As I write this, I suddenly realised that a lot of these “girly” films that we’d watch have very similar themes. ANYWAY, besides the point.

What I’m saying about this list is that it has not come from a critical point of view, by all means necessary you don’t HAVE to agree with whatever I put on this list. Most of my considerations are personal, for example, I could have grown up watching it, or it could have been the first film to really make me feel something, or it could have even been the first film to make me really appreciate the art of cinematography aesthetics. Etc.

Most of these reviews initially appeared on my contribution to Outtake Magazine’s 100 Top Films pf the 10’s, but I thought I’d condense them down to just a few of my decade-defining films that I consider to be significant. So without further ado, (within no particular order) here they are!

Coco (2017)
As far as 3D-animated Spanish fantasy films go, there aren’t many of them. However, if this was a common genre, Coco would still make it to the top three. In more areas than one, Pixar seriously stepped up their game with this one; this is more than a story of a boy chasing his dreams. There’s something more refreshing about this film besides the typical Disney tropes used within Coco with it’s engaging, vibrant and neon-lit boroughs that creates an overall spectacular motion picture. I’m not usually an animation fan, but this film certainly made me more open to them.

Inception (2010)
Christopher Nolan is consistently known for his thrilling and complex concepts that can just about send anyone into a state of mental vertigo. Inception in particular, is the pinnacle of all of this- this fantasy thriller shares a mixture of his iconic action scenes of Batman- The Dark Knight and the layered examination of The Prestige. Christopher Nolan actively weaves a mysterious dreamworld with a dream cast, with a plot so complex that it leaves the spectators contemplating the films reality as well as their own for weeks. Just watch it. Lord knows I have, too many times. Shoutout to my big brother.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Liberated filmmaker, artistic visionaire, colour-coding genius, symmetrical mastermind…you get the gist. These are just some of the many descriptions that come to mind when you think of Wes Anderson and are very much justified. Amongst this, you’ll find that his filmography follows suit- if you don’t know where to start in the catalogue, watch The Grand Budapest Hotel. From Bill Murray to Tilda Swinton, cast members are near unrecognisable once they’re stepped into Anderson’s vision. It’s not just all aesthetic, though part of its appeal, there’s an exciting cat-and-mouse chase, a deadpan but humorous script and an engaging story line. Check-in to The Grand Budapest Hotel!

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) dir. Wes Anderson
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) dir. Wes Anderson

Get Out (2017)
2017 detected a real shift in the horror landscape, Jordan Peele being the instigator to this. Earlier this year, Jordan Peele said that he’s seen enough White-led horror movies. This was met with plenty of criticism (as expected) but he had a point and he made it masterfully. As a comedy king, he was one of the least likely to come out with such a multi-layered and clever horror masterpiece. Yet, he did. As well as being a horror, Get Out exposes a far more stealthy motive behind the eerie characters and the United States as a whole; hyperbolic or not, Get Out does a wonderful job at exposing the racist underbelly within the third world and every ethnic minority’s unspoken worst nightmare.

Shoplifters (2018)
Shoplifters is a devastatingly beautiful film, a cinematic embodiment of the phrase “The Rose That Grew from Concrete”. Living in the poverty invested fringes of a Japanese city, Shoplifters is a fine blend of a family comedy and a crime thriller, exposing a harsh reality that isn’t always tragic despite it’s circumstances, exhibiting intimacy and tenderness in a dog-eat-dog world. Writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda exposes subtle compassion in each line and frame,yet never creates one dim moment as it rightfully earn it’s 99% approval rating.

Moonlight (2016)
As soon as A24 (every film they do is a masterpiece to be frank) dropped its intense yet beautiful trailer for Moonlight four years ago, viewers and spectators alike were instantly engulfed in all things Black and Chiron. Winning best kiss at the MTV Movie Awards, it becomes evident as to why. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, this stunning picture is an emotionally devastating quagmire as it intersects the unlikely subjects of black masculinity, homosexual relationships and vulnerability. Barry Jenkins’s direction allows room for the entire cast to embody their roles and interact in a way that is brutally real. Illuminating, heartbreaking and everything in between- a must see.

Moonight (2016) dir. Barry Jenkins
Moonight (2016) dir. Barry Jenkins

Has Black Feminism actually progressed in film?

Is Black female representation as presented in film just a trend?
Originally posted on The National Student.

Hollywood has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years. Just last year we were finally exposed to the “open secret” of Harvey Weinstein, prompting the beginning of the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns, which challenged the status quo of the industry as a whole. And Hollywood hasn’t just been criticised its treatment and representation of women. In 2015 and 2016, the Academy Awards in particular were called out for being overwhelmingly white.

Despite the recent success of Black women on screen and the progressive message that their performances are depicting, many fear that the “Black girl magic” and the empowerment of marginalised voices is nothing more than a marketing tool for ‘woke points’. But being woke is more than being a political young person, it’s more than a hashtag, and way more than a trend.

While some might have feigned surprise that the 2016 Oscars were #SoWhite, anyone with an insight into the industry could have foreseen it. From whitewashing to nepotism, and the promotion of stereotypes, it’s about time that we as a society have a conversation about films, feminism, and race.

Across all aspects of life, society indicates that women are second-rate citizens, people who need to be dominated, and are incapable of succeeding in the ways men can. This is a belief especially damaging towards women of colour, who face discrimination due to their race too. Finally, especially within in the last few years, the presence of melanated heroines on our screens has been at an all time high. Particularly worth mentioning are Hidden Figures, Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time.

ava storm wrinkle in time
A Wrinkle In Time, 2018

In 2015, there were no people of colour nominated for an Oscar in acting. None. In 2016, once again, there were absolutely no people of colour nominated for an Oscar in acting. Suddenly in 2017, there were six. Among the films to tackle issues of race and to garner the Academy’s attention were Loving, Fences, The People v. O.J. Simpson, I Am Not Your Negro, Moonlight, and 13th.

With her documentary 13th, Ava DuVernay calls out the racist history behind America’s penal system and challenges perceptions about the War on Drugs. She has dared to reclaim history, and ended up making it as a result. Even though DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time didn’t excel in the box office nor did it do well amongst critics, the film itself is a game-changer.

And that is not only because it is a landmark achievement for inclusive science fiction and fantasy (SFF) films, but also in the way that it shows Black girls a young hero who looks like them. A Wrinkle in Time is an open love letter to Black girls, and addresses the uncertainties of girlhood, especially for girls of colour.

Hidden Figures, the 20th Century Fox film telling the long-forgotten story of the African-American women at NASA who played instrumental roles in some of their most iconic missions, promotes the message that “We shall overcome”.

But it’s more than just a ‘Black movie’ – it’s an intelligent movie. It forces us to revisit one of the most monumental events in American history and acknowledge the unsung heroes that made it possible. It’s not a story that many people have heard before, but it’s one we all deserve to. It is a feminist movie, one that demonstrates a triumph of progress and perseverance through the rampant sexism of the 60’s.

Hidden Figures Day 41
Hidden Figures, 2016

“The fight has changed, the stereotypes remain, and the cause will never die.”

A woman of colour doesn’t face racism and sexism separately. The sexism she faces is often racialised, and the racism she faces is often sexualised. Black Americans have endured innumerable hardships since their involuntary migration and subsequent enslavement from Africa to America. The game-changing book “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race” by British journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge details the equivalent Black British experience, which is far less talked about.

The labour of women, but especially women of colour, is undervalued and overlooked. We are glaringly absent from textbooks, and our whitewashed histories are only available during Black History Month or through elective courses.

The representation of Black women throughout history has affected the way Black people, as well as Western society, values, identifies and idealises Black women in general. There have clearly been changes in these ideologies over time, and they are heavily influenced by the way Black women are represented in media.

Black Panther is an important film for diversity across various spectrum’s. It’s a blockbuster movie that features a majority Black cast with major names attached to it, and the merchandising is aimed at Black children. Its existence in the pop culture scene and what it means for representation in media cannot be understated and yes, finally, it is a film that Black women can actually celebrate.

black panther women
Black Panther, 2018

The narrative places the women of Black Panther front and centre, making them the heroes of their own stories. From the start, the story avoids the sexist tropes we are accustomed to watching in film.

Black Panther contains powerful messages about gender roles. The Wakandan women’s sex appeal is obvious, but secondary to their personality and skill, and rarely do we see Black women who are as assertive and independent as they are in this Marvel creation. Furthermore, almost every significant female role is played by a dark-skinned actress. It’s amazing to witness.

Yet a YouGov survey recently found that most Americans still believe there are not enough film roles for women and people of colour. The survey of 1,220 adults found that 37% of respondents believed women had enough roles available, just 2% points more than people who believed black people had enough parts available.

On-screen representations of minorities, the survey found, are seen as sometimes inauthentic, though that depends on whom you asked. Nearly half of Black respondents (46%) said on-screen representation of black characters were inauthentic, about twice the rate of the respondents overall. The analysis reveals people of colour remained underrepresented, considering they comprised 40% of the U.S. population in 2016.

Just 13.9% of the year’s film leads and 12.6% of film directors were people of colour.
But what does this mean now? The portrayal of Black women has certainly changed since the age of Blaxploitation, and of course, the success of Black women should be celebrated on screens, but do a few big-budget films with a Black cast count as progress? Is it fair?

3-fences
Fences, 2016

Investing in stories that center around people of colour without dwelling on their pain or oppression is a large step towards healing, particularly in this brutal contemporary political climate. It’s important not just to show tokenised images of Black characters, but to present diverse narratives of individuals with different stories and experiences.
It can be argued that in Hollywood, in an industry where everything is about marketing and making fortunes, that money is the only motivator. Therefore, Hollywood isn’t being progressive in including more Black actors and characters, they’re being tactical.

It seems that Hollywood has yet to understand what makes money, however. The last report on diversity in UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies shows that “films and television shows with casts attuned to America’s diversity tend to register the highest global box office figures and viewer ratings.” Yet the study still indicates that the industry could do better.

While the data notes that some progress has been made, it also highlights that Hollywood decision-makers still consider the presence of diverse talent to be the exception, rather than the rule, but sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. To reach a point where we can put marginalised voices on screens, and tell the stories of women of colour without any prescribed idea of what we should be, to find real examples of those like ourselves – this can all be attained.

A few extra nominations won’t undo years of exclusion of women and PoC, because we are as different as we are complicated. Hollywood has to actively work to give more opportunities to those previously ostracised and make sure a wider range of stories get told.

black feminism film
The Black Feminist Documentary, 2019

Why you should definitely go to a gig alone 

At least once.

Whether it’s a song, perfume, book, album, movie, television show, or underground cultural phenomenon, there are certain seemingly small things that have actually changed the course of our lives. Even if it’s minor and quite superficial through the eyes of others, if it makes you feel alive in some way then hang onto that.

This is going to sound kind of dark; but around two years ago when I was heavily suicidal, I read a post that suggested that if you feel as though you serve no purpose being alive, then stick around for the minor things. Like never being able to taste your favourite ice cream ever again, or  not being able to stroke your neighbours cute Labrador anymore, or trying the first bite of a delicious pizza, or even turning up at that event coming up that actually looked kind of cool (?).

For me, this ‘seemingly small superficial thing’ was Frank Ocean’s Blonde & Endless. If you’re under the age of 40, you’ll probably know who he is. Ocean’s lyrics deal with themes of love, longing, spiritually, misgiving, and nostalgia, all that resonated with to new extents. I won’t go into his entire discography but since his first mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra revealing his idiosyncratic approach to pop, I was hooked. Years clicked and in this super weird way, I found the wait to be part of the thrill. It was easy to worry as there are precedents for this sort of thing, for disappearances of the self-implosion of Black genius.

gig blogpost gif

But eventually, he came back. And it was amazing. This’ll seem corny but it restored my belief in the phrase “When one door closes, another one opens”. Despite going through a rough time and dealing with a lot of losses, with the thought of waiting for the new album to finally come out then having it do so gave me something to look forward to. It made me want to wait for the other little thing, then the other minor thing, then another, until I was past the rough time and wasn’t feeling so sad anymore. Through sharing the things that helped us become who we are today, hopefully it’ll  inspire you to try them out for yourselves. Anyway, aside from me basically admitting that Frank Ocean saved my life there was a point to this. What I’m saying is that the experience made me a little more introspective, thereby leading me to do a more things alone; like attending concerts.

I’m a music journalist (kind of, let me gas myself), so whenever a concert is in my town and I’m interested in the performer, I ask a publication to contact the PR team then I get in for free. Back in November, I went to see Mac Demarco in Rock City, Nottingham. I reviewed the show and even made friends with a girl that was friendly with the supporting band leading in me meeting Mac after the show- you can read the interview/review here. Plus, as sad as it sounds, I actually like being alone. I’m virtually always by myself, I go shopping alone, I go to my lectures alone, hell, I’ve even travelled around some areas around Europe alone when I finished high school. And I’ve become quite an evangelist about it.

But no matter what, I believe that everyone who can safely go to a show alone absolutely should, especially if it’s for a band you really love. Why? Music is evocative and emotional, and I’ve previously explained, it is extremely significant for ones well-being. Sometimes, by going to a gig or concert by yourself it’s easier to not have to explain everything to someone else. You have the right to dance, sing along or even cry at when you want to without worrying about the people with you, and you should get to experience that at a show without worrying about what anyone else’s experience looks or feels like. And this isn’t to say you shouldn’t share these experiences with your loved ones, but it is to say that YOUR experience should not be dependent on theirs.

On the night I went to see Mac Demarco, I learnt a lot in the space of a couple of hours. If you’re nervous about going alone or you feel sort of weird about it, that’s fine. It’s totally normal, actually. The main thing to remember is that doing anything outside of your comfort zone is bound to feel uncomfortable at first. But that’s how you grow. Obviously, if you feel truly scared to go to a show by yourself, or your gut senses something weird, then don’t. Or maybe find another show that you’d feel comfortable going to. The whole ordeal is going to look different for everyone. So, if you have ever been really keen to see someone live but none of your friends are down for it; here are some tips I’ve learnt about going to a gig or concert alone.

  • Turn up early, it’s kind of boring and maybe a little cold at first, but eventually people will turn up and maybe you’ll even get an opportunity to meet the artist! Weirdly for me, not only did Mac go out for a cigarette but he also got locked out the venue- so I  had a small opportunity to speak with him prior. Plus, you’ll be right at the front. Which is always great.
  • Speaking of people, even when you’re bored you can still find something to occupy with other than just staring down at your phone and refreshing snapchat. Interact with the crowd so that you feel more apart of it, additionally, you may get lucky- it’s how I met Mac.
  • Check out the location beforehand and let someone know you’re going to the function. If you’re going to a sketchy area, consider having an Uber drop you off so you don’t have to walk alone.
  • Speaking of which, I know this is a dark example but think about what happened at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester- Let family/friends/significant other  know around what time you expect to leave the show. Text them updates about when you’re leaving.
  • Don’t drink too much, you are alone after all.
  • Charge your phone fully because you’ll almost definitely run dry and please, please invest in a portable charger. You’ll thank me later.
  • If you want to avoid the massive rush at the end, leave early, being surrounded by sweaty strangers is pretty gross. Also, know where the fire exits are because you never know.

Most importantly, trust your gut, prepare in advance, and have an amazing time, kid! It’s never as scary as you think it will be, you’ll leave feeling super empowered and it should remind you of why you love music in first place. And maybe you’ll be so inspired after the experience that you’ll feel the need to blog and tell other people about it. Or maybe, it’ll restore your tiny faith in humanity just a little bit, I know it helped with mine.

 

 

The importance of “Dear White People” and the struggle with self-indentity

An opinion piece on the Netflix series “Dear White People” told from a mixed race perspective.

“When the truth is suppressed, it doesn’t die; it goes underground”.

It has been quite some time since I’ve written a blog post, I find that my intentions with this site change every other month. Originally, it was just a safe space for me to talk about my life and adventures, then it became a platform for me to practice my music journalism by reviewing albums, but then somewhere along the way I lost track of all of that in an abundance of things, like my exams, internships, portfolio expanding, maintaining friendships, working etc. And as a result my self-esteem sort of plummeted, especially in a creative sense. But one thing that I like and, above all else, appreciate about this blog is that I’m free to express whatever I want, no judgement on how I deliver statements or no one to devalue my views and opinions, and nowadays I find that my work frequently intersects with issues of race, gender, sexuality, feminism, and progressive politics.

Nevertheless, everybody experiences things in a different way, it’s not always easy to get people to understand what you mean or for everyone to see eye-to -eye. We’re living in far more polarising, politically intense times where things almost go full circle to the point that we lose direction. Or that we’re all reciting the same lines to the point where every room becomes an echo chamber, and it’s getting cramped.

If I choose to one day have children, the only values I hope for them to have is to appreciate nature, to love themselves and their bodies, have gratitude and empathy towards others but most importantly, to keep an open mind towards things and people that they don’t understand. This should be just the basis, but unfortunately this isn’t a natural inclination for everybody.

As a young person I always felt that it was important that I cultivate these strengths within my own character so that I can lead by example, not words. To be open to a new era of political correctness and changing sexual politics. You can call it whatever you want, whether it be “a liberal” or a “social justice warrior”, or the current favourite insult, a “snowflake” *cringes* however, these are the values I live by. Though it hasn’t always been this way.

Growing up in a predominantly white area in the UK (no, seriously the population of minorities is 2.2% in my area and that’s all the minority races in total) I never realised how oblivious I was to a lot of things, or how oblivious others were. Every comment that was made about my appearance and identity I mostly usually brushed off, especially because I was (unfortunately fortunate) enough to be light-skinned and borderline considered “White passing”. Yet still had the features of a Black person. So all my life I’ve been, what can be considered as ‘lucky’ in a way that not being ‘black’ enough came to my advantage, but in the least rewarding way. It’s as complex as it is problematic.

And that’s where my fascination with “Dear White People” came in, I immediately recognised the protagonist, played by Logan Browning, from Bratz: The Movie in 2007. My initial thoughts were “Oh god, please don’t let another mixed race girl not acknowledge her biracial heritage” I know, to some of you this may sound ghastly. But Zendaya in Disney Channel’s Shake It Up had two Black parents, and growing up I found this quite damaging, because it made it seem like multiculturalism couldn’t and shouldn’t exist, like we’re experiments and not the real thing, as if you had to be either one or the other. A “watered down” version of the original. So watching a show that finally addresses the struggles of a biracial individual and the war with their self-identification was refreshing to say the least, as well as reflecting the real internal struggle of figuring out who you are in this world.

Gail Lukasik’s novel ‘White Like Her‘ is a prime example of the struggle with self-identifying, she explains how her mother pretended to be White throughout her entire life and by doing this, she received a lot more privileges socially and economically, because she was “passing”. The saddest part, is that it all has to even matter in the first place. It’s funny how race is apparent on sight, isn’t it?

Yet racism hasn’t always been black and white. White supremacists, for example, used to hate Irish and Italians at the turn of the century. They weren’t considered white. But once people realised that there were a huge amount of them, they needed to include them for power’s sake and they did. Race is almost a concept, but in which involves real and damaging effects.

I kind of understand why people are interested in people like myself who are racially ambiguous. Race, however flawed the concept, is used as a tool for understanding people. Personally, I’m curious about other people’s racial backgrounds too and as human beings we are always searching for ways to identify, and factors like skin tone serve as physical reminders of our ancestry and racial heritage.

BUUUUUT, there are appropriate ways to talk to someone about their background and then there are ways to sound like, for lack of better words, an ignorant dickhead. And a lot of what I went through before was never worth compromising myself and who I am just to have a couple of friends, I’d go through the countless eye rolls and the tone deaf “You’re not even Black so you have no right to be offended!” statements just to get people to finally understand me on some level.

Since recently visiting an old friend from school that I had contrasting views with, the daunting realisation that I’m forever going to have to explain and justify my existence hit me like a bus. It was a heart-breaking epitome, racism is a lot more than “being mean” to someone because of their race. They’re a whole load of stages in White supremacy before being considered an extremist and with the case of my close friend from school, it was past indifference and minimisation, you know, “We all belong to the human race!” and the use of phrases like “post-racial society” and the casual White saviour complex followed by the denial of White privilege, plus never forgetting the constant false equivocation. Classic.

Yet the movie/television show “Dear White People” was enough in its title because it caused a bellicose, erupting reaction. Even Antoinette Robertson who played ‘white whisperer’ Coco Conners stated in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar that the name and podcasts ‘alienated’ White people. The like/dislike ratio on the YouTube official trailer was almost equal and the comments were all too familiar “What if there was a show called ‘Dear Black People??? There would be a war!”

Sigh. In explanation of that; first of all, the intent with the show was to generally raise more awareness with racial sensitivity i.e not doing black face and other blatantly racist hate crimes. Whereas a show directed towards minorities is always done with malicious intentions and is poorly informed i.e. everything Nicole Arbour has posted, ever.

Back to the show; each episode in the second season, save for the last, focuses on the experiences of one character, nose-diving viewers into the realities and trepidation’s of what it means to be black, or not black, or not black enough. Although the creator recognises that the show quantifies this problem through blackness, he thinks it’s a systemic result of the human condition.

In an ideal world, Dear White People would be better received. It encourages people to call out ignorance when they see it while educating individuals without chastising them, and holding both sides accountable. It deserves to have its watercooler moment because it encourages the discussions and bring issues to the surface that we really need to be having during these increasingly divisive times.

As journalist Wesley Morris of The New York Times pointed out in a podcast, change is happening in the Western world; “It’s just happening in dog years”. 

Calvin the II on working with Donald Glover and making music video history

Calvin the II gives an insight on being apart of this years most talked about music video and updates us on what’s next in store.

This year, Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino dropped the mesmerising “This is America”, an emotive, powerful conversation piece that gives us a haunting take on the United States’ toxic cycle of violence. The video is an expression of America’s chaotic past and its disastrous effects on the present, using the ambivalent reception of black art to represent the tightrope of being black, Donald Glover has become a real force to be reckoned with. Once again, proving that he is the only Donald that is making America great again.

Since its May 7 release, “This Is America” has reeled in more than 147 million track streams and 216 million video streams, along with over 1.3 million track equivalents sold in the U.S. and 2.6 million track equivalents sold worldwide.

Before his rapping, striding and brutal murder scenes- Gambino dances towards a man who is initially seen playing the guitar while sitting on a chair but is later found with white linen covering his head before eventually getting shot.

People on Twitter theorised that the man during that open sequence was Trayvon Martin’s father, Trayvon was an African-American teenage boy who was savagely murdered in Florida in 2012 by a neighbourhood watch community member. That is not the case here, however, the man was not Trayvon Martin but a music artist who goes by the name Calvin the Second. And a rather talented one at that, so we caught up with him and asked him everything you wanted to know about the video.

First off, can you explain to the readers who you are and what you do?

My name is Calvin C Winbush II, my stage name is “Calvin The II” (Calvin the Second) I’m a recording artist and actor from Detroit, MI, and I was on Childish Gambino’s most recent music video ‘This is America’. As an actor, I’ve appeared in a bunch of commercials, voice-overs, television shows such as “Nashville” and Movies such as “Whiplash”. For my music, I usually sing, rap and play guitar with or without a band. My music style is a combination of R&B, Folk, Hip Hop with Pop sensibilities. Think Gym Class Heroes with more soul, haha!

 

How did you get involved with the project?

One of my agents, Jennifer Walton, books me on projects where I’m playing instruments a lot. I play piano, guitar, saxophone (my first instrument), drums and bass guitar, and from time to time, different productions need real musicians for that. I was up at Coachella for the second weekend and she called me out of the blue. She let me know that the content matter was pretty graphic, and wanted to know if I was familiar with Childish Gambino. I was, of course and told her to submit me. One of the producers contacted me to let me know I was in the running and then I got it!

Had you ever done anything like that before?

I’ve been in a bunch of music videos before (Diary by Wale, Free by Hailey Reinhart, Nathan Sykes – Kiss me quick, and many others) but I’ve never been in a music video that went viral to this degree before or that had any type of violent storyline.

Did you get a script prior to the ‘This Is America’? And if so, what was your reaction the script?

I didn’t get a script, but I did get a call from one of the producers who worked on the project to let me know about the graphic nature of the video. I was a little shocked at first until they told me who the artist was! I’m familiar with Donald’s work and knew that he wouldn’t be shooting me on camera for no reason, there had to be more too it. I was definitely right about that!

When you agreed to do the project, did you know that it was going to be as controversial and as talked about as it is?

Given the graphic nature, I was able to guess that it was going to ruffle some feathers. My prayer was that not only did it get people’s attention, but it made people think and converse with one another about race and violence in America. My prayer came true.


 What was the set like?

The set was very warm and friendly, but also very professional. Everyone knew exactly what they needed to do and got to work! It was like everyone was solving a puzzle together and doing their best to contribute to something bigger than themselves, for sure.

How many hours of rehearsal did you have to go through?

For my part, I didn’t need much rehearsal. I heard the track over the phone and figured out how match it on guitar earlier that morning. We did practice the first shot which is done in one take several times though so that it seems a seamless as it did. I was amazed at how many takes of dancing everyone was doing. But as you can tell, it really paid off.

What to you is the most significant part about the video personally and what do you hope for people to get out of it?

For me, the most significant part of the video is all of the conversation and thought that it’s creating. It’s making people wake up and think, even if they don’t agree with the imagery. I took it as someone holding up a mirror and having the viewer judge for themselves how they look instead of berating them to behave the way we want them to. I hope that it continues to make people think, question, then resolve and move in a positive direction.

What did it feel like to work with a director like Hiro Murai? Knowing that he’d also worked with the likes of Sia, David Guetta, Earl Sweatshirt, and a Tribe Called Quest.

Oh my God, Mr. Murai is incredible and extremely humble! He has a vision and knows how to make it happen. He was also very jovial and down to earth.

There was loads of speculation on Twitter claiming that you look like Trayvon Martin’s dad – was that a deliberate choice they were making because you’re an actor or a coincidence? Was it weird?

To this day, I swear I have NO IDEA how that rumor started. I in NO way believe I was cast because of any resemblance to Tracey Martin and hope that this video hasn’t caused him any more distress than he’s already experienced. That man’s life has been severely altered by gun violence, and now he gets to see more? It was weird hearing the rumor, but so many people have come out to let everyone else know that it wasn’t me, which is cool.

And lastly, do you have any upcoming projects that you’re working on?

As a musician, I’m writing original music for myself and other artist just about every day. I place music on TV shows and Film. I’m also currently meeting with record labels and music publishers. Several reps have heard my music on my website at and have reached out. We’re currently fielding offers and preparing to make the choice that helps establish my brand. My first single and video for the song “Keepa” will be coming out in June. We’ll be shooting the video in a week and I’m extremely excited! After being in all of those other music videos, I’m finally getting the opportunity to be in my own J.

Keep up with Calvin The II and find his social media on-

https://calvintheii.com/

http://www.instagram.com/calvintheii

http://www.twitter.com/calvintheii

http://www.soundcloud.com/calvintheii