The Urbanworld Film Festival was the first stop in five weeks of madness. Five weeks without a day off. Five weeks of incremental, unrelenting stress. It was also the New York premiere of my film “72 Hours: a Brooklyn Love Story?” The opening night party was held high above the city and led off with a plaintive wail as trumpeter Keyon Harrold soloed through a moving set that he dedicated to Black Lives Matter. I found myself thinking, “what other festival would start like this?!” There’s a special satisfaction in knowing you’re in the place to be. That feeling would continue for the next few days.
Playing 72 HOURS in New York brought a strange apprehension. On the one hand: I’m proud of the film, think it plays well for audiences, and genuinely enjoy seeing it in front of different crowds. On the other: this is New York. My adopted home town. To be rejected here would feel personal on a level I might not be ready to accept.
Cast-and-crew, friends-and-family attended the screening, of course, but the house was packed by people who had no connection to the production at all. And… [exhale] the film played great. We got the couple laughs we expected, and I could feel the audience engagement slowly ratchet upwards as the person next to me stopped eating popcorn, eventually moved the popcorn to her knee, then finally set the popcorn bag on the floor during a pivotal scene.
Afterwards, friends who can be reserved in their praise were effusive, and friends who can be counted on for full puffery didn’t hold back either. We even got a nice review.
But the festival was more than just our screening. Urbanworld has been fixed in my head for years as a place where black and brown films can play to like-minded audiences. And this year was the festival’s 20th anniversary. Rousing speeches by festival director Gabrielle Glore, founder Stacey Spikes, and filmmaker Ava Duvernay at the awards ceremony pointed to the mission of Urbanworld: to spotlight the works of black and POC filmmakers, on a big stage, while in direct conversation with the audiences who will support our careers. I was spent, happy, and proud, all at once. I want to come back.
Scout Tafoya, the author of the linked article, and film essayist at large, approached after our screening at the BlackStar Film Festival to congratulate me on making a “fucking awesome film.” That made me happy. Here’s an interview with me and a passage from his review of the film:
Not only is Rivero an exciting, intelligent new director with plenty to say about art and life, his filmmaking is impossibly beautiful, raw and honest. 72 Hours is tender and loving but never plays down the ugliness of life in impoverished Brooklyn. The way he captures the streets is splendidly empathetic, even as he uncovers the darkest things hiding in the cold night.
— Raafi Rivero (@raafirivero) August 4, 2016
What I loved about BlackStar was that there were no velvet ropes. The demarcations between filmmakers, panelists, and audience members were virtually nonexistent. More than once I witnessed a panelist reference another august filmmaker only to have that person be sitting in the audience. The quality of discussion during Q&As and in the lobby afterwards was truly outstanding. I hope to return.
Flying out to LA I knew one thing was certain, I would return a changed person – baptized by the fact that I could now, officially, call myself a feature filmmaker. The festival itself was 9 days, but I stayed in LA for just over two weeks, saw at least 14 movies, and talked myself dry. Moments that I didn’t capture were just as good as the ones below, nor do the ones included actually “say” all that much, but the experience, for me, was singular and these are the images that describe it.
Though you always imagine music being written and placed into your film, one of the things I hadn’t pictured at the start of this process was standing in a room while the cellist and composer record the music. Pictured, Alexandre “Diesel” Varela and Kristine Kruta, who wrote and performed our original score in a whirlwind session just days before I left for the LA Film Festival.
Here’s an article in The Hollywood Reporter about my film, 72 Hours: a Brooklyn Love Story?. In it I talk a bit about the process of adapting a short documentary into a narrative feature. And there’s even an exclusive clip from the film embedded in the article.
Diogenes Brito, a designer at Slack, writes about his decision to make the skin color of the Add to Slack button brown.
Why was the choice an important one, and why did it matter to the people of color who saw it? The simple answer is that they rarely see something like that. These people saw the image and immediately noticed how unusual it was. They were appreciative of being represented in a world where American media has the bad habit of portraying white people as the default, and everyone else as deviations from the norm.
Though not explicitly a companion piece, design and tech leader John Maeda’s, Did I Grow Up And Become The Yellow Hand? is the perfect pairing. Maeda plumbs the pitfalls of racial inclusion as both a tried-and-true path to greater creativity, and a later-in-life embrace of his own colored identity.
I can now, a decade later, remember how much I simply tuned it all out. I thought back then as well, “This is the way that it is.” And rely on what I had learned to be right. A simple algorithm. Don’t complain. Withstand. Don’t cause problems.
Undergirding both pieces is the tension between race and color. Though I’ve written about those same tensions, what I find refreshing is that in talking about things like the color of an Emoji icon, the discussion moves past mushy things like feelings. Ideas and politics become practical once the pixels hit the screen, so to speak. These two designers both come to the conclusion that identity is not something that can or should be wrapped into the larger wet blanket of ‘universality‘. Identity cannot be ignored. This leads to better design. And a wider gamut of ideas in the marketplace.
I’ve been waiting to say something like this for years. My first feature film, “72 Hours: a Brooklyn Love Story?” will make its World Premiere in competition at the LA Film Festival. It is a tremendous honor and I couldn’t be more proud. See the trailer here, or sign up for updates on the project at the film’s website. I’ll be updating this space regularly throughout the festival process.
After a recent two-week trip to Morocco in which I shot several thousand images, I have much to share. The question is format. For the first time, I’ve been exploring printing the work.
The trip covered Marrakech, Fes, the Atlas mountains, the Merzouga Dunes and more. So much to see, and even more to visit again on a future trip. Or, better yet, let’s find somewhere to sip mint tea and I’ll share the images in person.
72 Hours a Brooklyn Love Story? is a feature film about love and coming-of-age that I wrote and directed. The project was developed with Reel Works, an organization that mentors youth filmmakers in Brooklyn, and was inspired by a short documentary film by one of the students there.
Shooting took place in neighborhoods as far apart as Brownsville and Ft. Greene, Bushwick and Flatbush – traversing the great distances that many teens cover on a daily basis. 72 Hours made its premiere at the LA Film Festival in 2016.
A comment on Soundcloud: “Black tears! I can feel my soul dancing & crying”
Just keep scrolling. This Instagram feed will reward you. (via @khoi)
This post by Jason Kottke is one of my favorites. I’ve re-read it several times since it was first published in 2012. In it he considers two approaches to running a business, but it’s the commingled sense of fret and wonder that makes it worth the repeated visits.
This essay by Crag Mod asks the question, “will digital books ever replace print?” Call it a state-of-digital-books referendum. Beautifully written and digitally bound.
To read a book once is to know it in passing. To read it over and over is to become confidants. The relationship between a reader and a book is measured not in hours or minutes but, ideally, in months and years.
Recently, a hardcover of Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire was gifted to me. Because I rarely read in print these days (other than magazines), I bought the book from Apple as well. The idea is that I don’t have to wait until some imagined future where I make time to read the books on my side table every night, I can just read the thing anytime. A dual-platform experiment — one not quite undertaken in Mod’s essay, but perhaps a best-of-both worlds approach, for now.