Starved for resources and investment, Richmond is a city inclusive of poverty, abandonment and systemic oppression. As a case study, Richmond was once declared the nation’s murder capital for its violence in the United States. Public housing has severely failed Richmond’s low- income residents and the murder rate in Richmond is steadily increasing. LETS EAT offers a unique glimpse of how Richmond’s cultural nuances perpetuates the daily African American struggle. Dissected in on-screen drama, the film highlights an array of psychological ramifications associated with African Americans who reside in low socioeconomic areas, and how certain social relationships can further hinder or improve the conditions required to succeed. These culturally relevant underlying tones of poverty, criminality, jealousy, and heightened themes of sexuality are explored in this cinematic feature. Without further ado, here is our interview with Kevo Kodesh on LETS EAT:
BARI: LETS EAT sounds like a black insider’s perspective on the contradictions and celebrations of East Coast African American life. Are you creating characters that transcend race and economic status, and speak to us all?
KEVO: I always strived to stray away from the typical exploitation of urban and similarly genre- based films. Many of which tend to contain redundant subject matters of violence and second- class civil subordination; Alternatively, I want to challenge viewers. I personally think this film will be highly regarded in its attempts at exploring visual creativity and content diversity regarding the art of storytelling. Hopefully, it continues a dialogue that community leaders can act upon. Though there are motifs of murder, family and marital drama, and other elements of cultural dilemmas, the aim is to place these cultural themes under a microscope to raise awareness for African American creativity and excellence.
BARI: We recently witnessed the first, and arguably controversial media ban on a sitting United States president, including unprecedented restrictions on various social media accounts that have garnered huge audiences. Will LETS EAT shy from certain controversial hot topics within the urban community?
KEVO: CNM Films does not plan to shy from producing films on cultural topics that elevate the masses, or dialogue pertaining to the African American experience of which I am happily proud to be a contributing member. African Americans in the diaspora have a plethora of triumphs and failures readily available to capture. LETS EAT is a new route in which I can grab a red camera, cinematic lenses, and creatively reveal psychologies of the African American mind. Creating thought provoking transitions through the art of film allows me to showcase new frameworks of African American creativity in cinema.
BARI: Upon hearing your first couple of responses, filmmaking is clearly important to you. Is film a way into your life, personal and career?
KEVO: Yes, I would say film is a window into my life. Film allows the opportunity for characters and their personalities to come alive on screen. The mind is my most utilized canvas, and film is the calming arena to engage in other realms of self-discovery. Subconsciously, when I create characters, they are a large mixture of truth, personal identities and elements of my worldview. So, watching a film directed or produced by me, is like seeing the world through my frame of reference. However, each actor and actress in the movie LETS EAT were encouraged to define what a character’s authenticity means to them from their context of reality. To me, this gives an actor/actress the ability to identify with their character and create a super-reality juxtaposed around their personal consciousness and the freedom of self-expression. I believe this is where the fun begins because the portrayal of the character is influenced by the tunnel of reality of the actor/actress.
BARI: How do you work? Do you shoot with an idea in mind, assemble some stock footage that fits into your mental framework, and then begin refining it down, or do you have a plan to begin with, or what?
KEVO; Majority of the time, I shoot with an idea in mind and assimilate characters into the environment according to how I see their relation to the scene. I begin with brainstorming ideas that would best fit the character and other elements that properly support the ideas I would like to be conveyed. I’m not a big fan of stock footage and rarely engage in director collaborations. Most directors and producers have their personalized style of shooting film which at times can cause creativity incongruence. For this film, I decided to work with Pure Brilliance, a production company based out of Virginia Beach, Virginia. I was fortunate enough to work with Pure Brilliance on this project and we are developing new ways of capturing motion film from different vantage points.
BARI: Your form of shooting the film will surely impact the editing process; what genres do you shoot and how many takes do you normally take per scene?
KEVO: Urban storytelling is where I am the most comfortable when shooting short films. I wrote, directed and produced a short film I titled “Ochosi”. The film was a quasi sci- fi short film about an African orisha who embodied a human by the name of Nakari Smith. Ochosi was my first short- film and each scene required 12-14 takes per scene. Juggling between being an actor and director is hard work considering shooting, acting and editing without a film crew. The The Ochosi short- film was captured on the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera
BARI: What has been the impact of the digital revolution on your work? Does it make it easier for you to make and market underground films?
KEVO: There’s pros and cons, but the digital atmosphere has certainly changed how the industry distributes content. Though the digital revolution has a significant impact on boosting LETS EAT’s awareness, it has consequently made our road challenging. CNM Films is incorporating digital distribution related to the LETS EAT project. We plan to continue premiering our films in theater then television. LETS EAT will be made available for personal home viewing (video-on-demand, DVD, electronic download, television programs through broadcast syndication) later this year.
BARI: Would you like to add anything before we conclude this amazing interview?
KEVO: Regardless of economic dispositions, African Americans are a special group of people and we deserve the opportunity to express our visual arts in a meaningful and palatable way. I always asked myself, “How do I tell a magnificent story in a way that captivates the audience and intrigues the audience at the same time”? LETS EAT, is a movie based on real events, people, and the psychology of a wounded community searching for a new identity. When you know your identity, you know your power.
Follow Kevo Kodesh on Instagram, here.
Official website of Kevo Kodesh, http://CNMfilms.com .