Seattle's Northwest Tap Connection, a race and social justice-oriented dance studio, responds to the deaths of unarmed black lives at the hands of police officers, using dance as passionate protest in a call to say their names, see their names, and feel their names.
Hell You Talmbout screened at NFFTY 2017 at Closing Night and took home the Audience Award.
ABOUT THE DIRECTORS & DIRECTORS' STATEMENT:
"With each passing day, we find it more urgent than ever that citizens in Trump America need to hear the voices of these children. The taps of their shoes are like the walks and talks of those chained and silenced - but at the very same time, an embodiment of revelry and resilience. Hell You Talmbout is a cry to say their names, see their names and feel their names, and it's a declaration that the list of lives lost to police brutality ends today."
Denzel Boyd is an artist, designer and activist based in Richmond, VA. His work transits through the fields between art and graphic design practices with a focus on typography, print design, art direction and social design. He enjoys finding a harmony between order and chaos through thorough experimentation of digital and analogue processes Most recently, his work have been commissioned by the National Youngarts Foundation and his work recognized at the MOMA PS1 in Brooklyn, NY. His design practice involves discovering ways to envision and invent instead of advertise and conform. He holds a undergraduate degree in graphic design at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Tyler Rabinowitz is a producer/director and an alumnus of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where he was named one of Variety Magazine's 2015 "Students to Watch.” Tyler is a 2017 Sundance Ignite Fellow, a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, a YoungArts Winner in Cinematic Arts, and a TED speaker. Tyler works as a producer/director on music videos for popular recording artists. Previous clients include Universal Music, Republic Records and Crush Music, as he brought visuals to life for platinum-selling talent such as Train and Matt Nathanson, as well as YouTube star MAX. Most recently, Tyler co-produced "The Mess He Made" (Dir. Matthew Puccini), a short film starring Max Jenkins about the fifteen minutes a man waits for the results of his HIV rapid test. It made its world premiere at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival. Previously, Tyler has worked for Warner Bros., Sesame Workshop, Avy Kaufman Casting, and the National YoungArts Foundation. His work has garnered millions of views on YouTube, been on exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and has screened at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the historic TCL Chinese Theatre.
A Brief Interview with Denzel & Tyler:
Why did you decide to make this film?
Denzel: As we enter this rather dark period in modern politics, it may seem trivial to discuss the arts as a vehicle for change. However, yet more than ever it is vital to defend the right to free expression, and use art to help make change happen. I wanted partake in utilizing the National YoungArts Foundation's commissioned support as a platform to amplify the artistic and political voices of Seattle's Northwest Tap Connection. Likewise I was left inspired after witnessing the youth dance group performance, caught on camera following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. It became clear to me and my collaborators to use our resources to stimulate not just a moment, but rather a movement towards radical transformation of ideals and consciousness.
Tyler: We were trying to figure out how we were going to show up for the Black Lives Matter movement. We were compelled to show up with our camera. We didn't tell this story, the story told us. The Facebook live video we came across of Northwest Tap Connection's dancers spoke to us: "Drop what you are doing and support these brilliant kids. Put their passion on the screen."
What was your favorite part about making it?
Denzel: Working closely with a experienced filmmaker (Tyler Rabinowitz), tap dancer (Joseph Webb), and choreographer (Shakiah Danielson) truly made this a edifying experience to create a work that captured the social transformation we all yearned for. In addition, the starring Northwest Tap Connection showed me that there is so much to be learned from witnessing a body of people in action.
Tyler: I don't know how clear we were on what we were making in the moment. We had a strong collaboration going, a framework for the end product and we knew that it all centered around this dance. I could never pinpoint what genre this was. Was it a narrative? Well, there was no script, no dialogue, no "objective" in the scene. How about a music video? Sort of, but there's more to it than that. Experimental? Potentially, but not entirely. Could it be a documentary even though there's no traditional sit-down interviews or B-roll?
Partway through the edit I asked dancer/actor Joseph Webb to write a letter to these kids. What he wrote became the voiceover that threads through the piece, woven together with sound clips from the Facebook live video broadcasted by Diamond Reynolds, Philando Castile's girlfriend, and from nine-year-old Zianna Oliphant speaking to the Charlotte City Council. I realized that this is a documentary of emotions. It is a documentary of the hearts, souls, passion, purpose, anger, frustration, and resilience of the dancers at Northwest Tap Connection, and of their uplifting choreographer/instructor Shakiah Danielson - who inspires these kids to demonstrate the unwavering compassion they don't always receive. There's not a day that goes by where I don't ecstatically tell someone all about this school, these dancers, Shakiah and their incredible instructors, and their artistic director Melba Ayco. They've touched our lives.
What are you working on now?
Denzel: Currently I have been facilitating a series of events funded by research grant, to extend the life of the short film. To date, my collaborators and I have hosted a public screening & panel discussion, as well as a social movement workshop to engage our community in the spirit of healing, liberating and educating.
Tyler: When I'm not directing or producing music videos, I'm developing a film with the support of my mentors through the Sundance Ignite Fellowship. The film inspired by the life of my grandfather, and a journal in which he wrote his life story in right after being diagnosed with ALS and knowing he'd soon lose the ability to write. I'm always open to exciting new collaborations, especially if the project has a social impact, so if anyone has an idea please don't hesitate to reach out!
Find Denzel, Tyler & Hell You Talmbout online: