How Chanding Godfrey People Celebrate Independence in ‘Miss Juniote’ – Variety6 min read
Although the name “Miss Junieth” for the debut directed by Chadding Godfrey People was kept for the holiday, often referred to as “Black Independence Day” or “Independence Day”, the film is not a lesson in history. At least not quite. And with the release of the film on the 155th anniversary of the holiday, Peoples can’t help but find the moment a little bit sweeter.
“There’s a lot of excitement in the film’s spread around the world and people will see the story that has become so close and dear to me,” Peoples said. Diversity. “But we are also in this really difficult time, especially in the black community.”
“Thematically in the film, we’re talking about freedom and what freedom means for blacks. And we’re here in 2020, still really navigating what freedom means for black people – and that’s what we need to survive and walk the streets or stay in our homes and really Freedom to live. ”“ But I’m trying to be as optimistic as you can right now because I’m looking at more black voices and black stories. And I think it’s very important that we see and hear more voices that are black in this country. Speak with human humanity “
In the historical context of his film, following recent pop-culture references to June in episodes of “Atlanta” and “Black-ish”, Peoples said, “We talk about the history of June in the film, [but] This is not a historical film in particular. As a storyteller I really look at the past in my work and what we have left behind and what we have chosen to take forward. “
“I really wanted to tell a story about a black woman who was behind the dream who knows, at the end of the day, she just wants something for herself. She has this hope and dream to have a better life for her child. So, in a sense, he is looking for a way to be free from his past and the way he sees himself, ”Peoples explained. “I was literally remembering the eleventh of June, because I was remembering it as an annual day, and I really wanted to thematically portray Firozi’s journey in search of his own sense of freedom.”
Followed by Firoza Jones (played by Nicole Behari) in the movie, the single mother is working to keep her daughter (newcomer Alexis Chikaze) through Miss Junior’s Scholarship Pageant, which she herself won as a teenager. Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, the people grew up celebrating this holiday – which reached the slaves of Texas in remembrance of June 19, 18655. The Declaration of Liberation was signed two and a half years ago, marking the official end of slavery. America – and the annual beauty pageant was part of the festivities.
“[The pageant] It was definitely nostalgic for me, one of the things I expected every year and the things I think it was constructive for me. Because, where people have grown up and they would like to see ‘Miss America’, I have found true examples of all these young ladies on stage and all their shades and hair textures and all their confidence and their hopes in “their faces,” she said. “I’m so grateful that I got that example and I can see now that I really wanted a way to show Miss Juntith in some way, so that other young women could put this example in front of them.”
Peoples, however, had to overcome the hurdle of explaining to potential financiers and collaborators what Juniat was when he pitched the film with his co-producer (and husband) Neil Cruise Williams.
“When I left Texas, especially when I went to grade school in California, I would tell people,‘ Happy Junior! ’They would just look at me curiously,” Peoples recalls. “It was a constant learning about what Junest was and it was interesting because it was just part of the fabric of my life.”
The filming of his directorial debut in Fort Worth was also an important opportunity for filmmakers to shed light on the people and places that make up what his community is all about.
“I had a lot in Firoza, but there were also a lot of women around me who grew up – my mother, my grandmother, my aunt, the women in the community who picked me up and supported me,” Peoples says.
“And the things that really resonated with me as an adult were not what they were doing, they always had this dignity and this compassion, and they all had this expectation at the end of the day, no matter how difficult things got. matter, “he added.” I was really writing this story about the beauty of this community, because there is beauty in this community, but there are also people who have this humor and resilience. “
So, people incorporated these qualities into the story of the film. And every detail was important and authentic – including the inclusion of Dr. Maya Angelo’s poem “The Bizarre Woman”.
“You’ll always see at least one young woman doing a ‘phenomenal woman.'” It was always written in the script, and then, the more I worked out the script and really began to understand, the more you know the lyrics of this beautiful poem, the more for me, it describes. Firozize K. “
He also hired people from his past to play small or important roles in the film.
“One of my favorite scenes from the movie is the scene where there was turquoise at the end of the night, where he was looking at this woman. [dance] On the floor, and you can see that he has lost a hand, “he noted.” I know that woman in real life and I had this moment with her. I saw her and I remember her. [thinking] ‘My God, this woman – here she is in all her beauty and all her resilience.’ It was just a constructive moment for me and it was something I wanted people to feel, so I asked her to come to the film. I see the story; I see the beauty of the people in the movie Elastic.
In terms of her ease of directing her first film, the People’s Austin Film Society Program (Richard Linklater and her idol Charles Burnett) and the Sundance Institute, as well as Ava Duvern (who pointed to “Queen”) (Chinese). Gina Prince-Bythwood and Matthew A. Cherry, mentors and filmmakers who encouraged or directly assisted her in creating the project.
“The first day we fired, we were shooting an existing parade. I think that day became really real for me, “People recalls.” It was a trip to make the picture that I don’t believe, until the first day the camera rolled, it was happening. “
“I was also making this film as a new film and so it came up with its own unique challenge,” he added. “But one of the things I can say about that experience is that I was aware of the way I was interpreting Firozi’s journey. Before [I had my daughter], To me it was you know the more solid love version of turquoise on paper know I now enjoy joy and this bond with my daughter and also experience love for another man, my responsibilities and caring for another man, so I understood turquoise differently. And I realized that she really has all these hopes and dreams and is going to fight to spend the best life of her child. “
“Miss Junieth” is now streaming VOD and digital.