I was talking to a good friend of mine, Tamara Leacock (great fashion designer and artist/goddess/comrade) about drug problems and art. Got me thinking…Can someone or should someone be free to promote their drug experience as positive for the sake of their art?
…And the funny as hell slice of Brooklyn life film Newlyweeds is the result. Well, Director Shaka King would say it’s a “Stoner-drama-comedy-romance.”
It was all a dream… Or at least the film started with one. As a vivid dreamer, I could immediately relate to Nina (Trae Harris), the wispy free-spirited, thin-boned girlfriend of Lyle (Amari Cheatom), her non-upwardly mobile co-dependent yet loving boyfriend. Nina will become a Brooklyn style icon for sure, with her richly colored dark locs, vintage clothing, and bohemian jewelry. And that dope ass mask.
My first lesson from the movie was: Never rent furniture. Lyle and Jackie (Tone Tank) have hilarious scenes where they slew racial slurs at one another and repossess people’s furniture.
But no scratch that…The real lesson is…
Never get high before work. (Unless you’re an artist, which King let’s me know that, besides influencing the film’s story, his experiences with marijuana have opened him up artistically.)
But this movie isn’t so much about weed as it is about the ups and downs of life. Still, all of the smoking adds a nice touch. You learn about different types of weed, hash, and see new devices especially made for indulging in this medicinal herb.
The film is not hard to follow, although the it navigates through the main characters’ dream space back to his 3-dimensional reality quite seamlessly. Despite this it’s actually pretty straight forward.
In fact, what touched me most of all about this film was the dreaming. The sense of loss I know that Lyle felt when he was away from Nina and dreamt of her tugged on my heartstrings. I could feel the deep desire to want to give her something more than he could offer at the time. She was like his princess locked up in a castle. He would do anything to get to her, even if it meant making a fool of himself and ultimately being defeated by heartbreak.
I’ve been that princess more than once, and Lyle reminds me a lot of some of my exes. You see all of this potential in the man, and you see that even though Nina is sleeping on her potential as well, you just know that she will outgrow him. And you know that the relationship is dysfunctional and she will continue to manipulate him emotionally until they can no longer be in each others’ lives. She’ll never see the man that she helped him to be.
And we don’t see what Lyle will be, either. We only see what his hopes are for himself and Nina through his dreams. That’s what this movie was about for me. Dreams. Kendrick had a dream, Martin had a dream, and Director Shaka King obviously had a dream too: to make a movie that would be relatable, easy to watch, easy to get pulled in to, and even piss us off a little at the ending. Needless to say, as a Black woman, as an indie arts supporter, as a human being and artist, I’m proud.
Talking to Shaka about his artistic process, I see that this is the beginning of a life long love affair with film. He studied at Vasser and now is writing and directing full time. He deserves at least $100,000 for the making of this film, he says. “He’s not getting paid for his time, he’s getting paid for the value of his product.” Says associate producer Johnny Blue, King’s cousin. Yes, it’s a family affair, which makes it all the more endearing. “Every time you see it you’re gonna love it more.” he adds. Cult classic in the making? I’m not sure, that would be up to the support of people like you and me. But I have a really good feeling about it.
Newlyweeds will be playing at Film Forum in NYC through October 8th. Go to www.filmforum.com for showtimes and tickets.