2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1991 release of Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash, the first feature length film directed by an African-American woman to receive wide theatrical distribution. To celebrate and explore the film’s legacy, the Nickelodeon will present Daughters: Celebrating Emerging Female Filmmakers of Color, a three-day film festival featuring works by a selected group of contemporary female filmmakers of color. The festival will take place from Friday, November 11 through Sunday, November 13, 2016 at the Nickelodeon Theatre.
Director Roni Nicole Henderson is an artist/filmmaker and the co-curator of Daughters Fest. She is based out of Columbia, South Carolina and earned an M.F.A. from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her work is displayed in galleries, museum, and public spheres across the nation.
On Friday, November 11th, Henderson will screen her two short films God in Man Part II and Grace at Daughers. God in Man Part II revolves around a man on a journey to connect with the powers of his ancestors, seeking guidance through the act of divination. Grace is the story about Annie James’ attempts to rescue her pregnant daughter Jeannie from her cyclical drug addiction.
HBR had the opportunity to catch up with Henderson where we discussed her career in art and filmmaking.
HBR: How did you get your start as a filmmaker?
Henderson: I’ve always loved stories. My Grandmother shared all of the family history with me from childhood and I could see the characters in her repeated tales. I then became an English teacher. I saw a light in my students’ eyes when they engaged with media. I knew that it was probably a powerful way to inspire and motivate them. I decided to go to film school and harness this weapon.
I then became an English teacher. I saw a light in my students’ eyes when they engaged with media. I knew that it was probably a powerful way to inspire and motivate them. I decided to go to film school and harness this weapon.
HBR: What was the inspiration behind God In Man Part II & Grace?
Henderson: Grace is a short that explores the hero that my Grandmother was and the unconditional love that my mother needed. I hope to make a feature of it soon. God in Man II is the second film in an on-going series of films that explore the divinity in the black man. I made it to “balance” my personal scales in a year that seemed particularly riddled with works that were really anti-black man. I wanted to uplift the beauty I saw in the men around me.
HBR: What are some of the biggest challenges that you had to face in getting this film made and how did you overcome these challenges?
Henderson: Grace was my MFA thesis project at SCAD and having to be away from my daughter for a month was the biggest challenge. God in Man II was a treat…we showed up and got to work.
HBR: What would you like audiences to take away from each of these films?
Henderson: I would like the audience to feel empowered to talk openly about generational strongholds. Talk with your kids about your regrets, your joys, your flaws and allow the space for growth in your descendants. The illusion of perfection allows for pain to fester in our DNA…we pass on our secrets to future generations and they have to work to evolve the bloodline because folk were too proud to admit hurt or weakness. I want God in Man II to empower an acceptance of the spiritual gifts of our African ancestry.
HBR: Are there any filmmakers/directors/authors/cinematographers/artists etc. that inspire your work?
Henderson: I love Kasi Lemmons, Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, Michel Gondry, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and of course Julie Dash and Arthur Jafa!
HBR: Do you have any advice for a young up and coming filmmaker who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Henderson: Pick up a camera and start. Read well-crafted stories, especially Toni Morrison. Look outside of film for inspiration.
HBR: Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share?
Henderson: I am working on a table read for my feature script of Grace. Once we are happy with the script, we will begin pre-production.